Cost-effectiveness analysis of the first-line therapies for nicotine dependence

Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2003 Jul;59(3):201-6. doi: 10.1007/s00228-003-0610-6. Epub 2003 May 21.


Background: Nicotine dependence is the major obstacle for smokers who want to quit. Guidelines have identified five effective first-line therapies, four nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs)--gum, patch, nasal spray and inhaler--and bupropion. Studying the extent to which these various treatments are cost-effective requires additional research.

Objectives: To determine cost-effectiveness (CE) ratios of pharmacotherapies for nicotine dependence provided by general practitioners (GPs) during routine visits as an adjunct to cessation counselling.

Methods: We used a Markov model to generate two cohorts of one-pack-a-day smokers: (1) the reference cohort received only cessation counselling from a GP during routine office visits; (2) the second cohort received the same counselling plus an offer to use a pharmacological treatment to help them quit smoking. The effectiveness of adjunctive therapy was expressed in terms of the resultant differential in mortality rate between the two cohorts. Data on the effectiveness of therapies came from meta-analyses, and we used odds ratio for quitting as the measure of effectiveness. The costs of pharmacotherapies were based on the cost of the additional time spent by GPs offering, prescribing and following-up treatment, and on the retail prices of the therapies. We used the third-party-payer perspective. Results are expressed as the incremental cost per life-year saved.

Results: The cost per life-year saved for only counselling ranged from Euro 385 to Euro 622 for men and from Euro 468 to Euro 796 for women. The CE ratios for the five pharmacological treatments varied from Euro 1768 to Euro 6879 for men, and from Euro 2146 to Euro 8799 for women. Significant variations in CE ratios among the five treatments were primarily due to differences in retail prices. The most cost-effective treatments were bupropion and the patch, and, then, in descending order, the spray, the inhaler and, lastly, gum. Differences in CE between men and women across treatments were due to the shape of their respective mortality curve. The lowest CE ratio in men was for the 45- to 49-year-old group and for women in the 50- to 54-year-old group. Sensitivity analysis showed that changes in treatment efficacy produced effects only for less-well proven treatments (spray, inhaler, and bupropion) and revealed a strong influence of the discount rate and natural quit rate on the CE of pharmacological treatments.

Conclusion: The CE of first-line treatments for nicotine dependence varied widely with age and sex and was sensitive to the assumption for the natural quit rate. Bupropion and the nicotine patch were the two most cost-effective treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Bupropion / economics
  • Bupropion / therapeutic use
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Counseling / economics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Economic
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage
  • Nicotine / economics
  • Nicotine / therapeutic use
  • Sex Factors
  • Smoking Cessation / economics*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / drug therapy*


  • Bupropion
  • Nicotine