Introduction: Telephone quitlines are an easily accessible and effective means for delivering cessation services including nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Varenicline (VAR) may show superior quit rates to NRT, but has not been routinely evaluated in the context of quitlines.
Aims: To assess the feasibility of distributing VAR through a quitline, and preliminarily compare cessation rates between participants receiving VAR and NRT.
Methods: Participants were recruited through the New York State Smokers’ Quitline. Those randomised to VAR (n = 200) were instructed to obtain a prescription from their primary care physician (PCP) to be filled by mail through the research pharmacy. Those randomised to NRT (n = 100) were mailed NRT using an existing protocol. Outcome measures were number of submitted prescriptions and dispensed medication kits, and self-reported 7-day point prevalence abstinence at follow-up.
Results: The research pharmacy filled 100% of prescriptions through the quitline. However, only 27% of the VAR Arm submitted a prescription. An intent-to-treat analysis revealed that those receiving NRT were more likely to be abstinent at follow-up than the VAR Arm (OR, 2.42; 95% CI, 1.27–4.60; p < 0.01). The per-protocol analysis, which only included those in the VAR Arm who submitted a prescription, showed no difference in quit rates.
Conclusions: The present protocol resulted in successful delivery of VAR through the quitline, but a sizable proportion of the VAR Arm did not submit a prescription. Self-reported barriers included being unable to obtain a prescription from a PCP. Future studies should explore alternative methods for delivering VAR through quitlines.