Background: General practitioners' (GPs) negative beliefs about nicotine dependence medications may act as barriers to prescribing them.
Methods: Study1: Twenty-five GPs from 16 practices across London were interviewed in this qualitative study. Framework analysis was used to identify key themes. Study 2: A convenience sample of 367 GPs completed an internet-based survey. Path-analysis was used to examine the relations between beliefs and intentions to prescribe smoking cessation medications.
Results: Study 1: Whilst nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and bupropion were generally perceived as effective and cost-effective, the effectiveness of NRT was seen as critically dependent on behavioural support for smoking cessation. This dependence appeared to be influenced by perceptions that without support smokers would neglect psychological aspects of smoking and use NRT incorrectly. GPs perceived bupropion as dangerous and were concerned about its side-effects. Study 2: GPs' beliefs had medium (NRT, f2 = .23) to large (bupropion, f2=.45; NRT without support, f2=.59) effects on their intentions to prescribe medications. Beliefs about effectiveness of NRT and bupropion and the perceived danger of bupropion were the key predictors of intentions to prescribe NRT and bupropion, respectively. Beliefs about neglecting psychological aspects of smoking and incorrect use had indirect effects on intentions to prescribe NRT without support, operating via beliefs about effectiveness.
Conclusion: GPs vary in their beliefs about the effectiveness and safety of smoking cessation medications. Their intentions to prescribe these medications vary in line with these beliefs. Interventions aimed at increasing the likelihood with which GPs prescribe these medications may be more effective if they addressed these beliefs.