Prescribing of smoking cessation medication in England since the introduction of varenicline

Addiction. 2011 Jul;106(7):1319-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2011.03426.x. Epub 2011 May 3.


Aims: To estimate the effect of the introduction of a new smoking cessation medication, varenicline, and the publication of guidance related to its use, on trends in prescribing of smoking cessation medications in England.

Design: Interrupted time series analysis of primary care data on prescribing of smoking cessation medication using autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) modelling.

Setting: A total of 446 general practices included in The Health Improvement Network (THIN), a database of UK electronic primary care records.

Participants: All primary care patients registered with a THIN practice in England.

Measurements: Monthly rates of prescribing of varenicline, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and bupropion per 100 000 patients registered with a THIN practice between June 2000 and June 2009.

Findings: NRT was the most commonly prescribed stop smoking medication, and bupropion the least frequently prescribed. After its introduction in December 2006 varenicline rapidly became the second most commonly prescribed drug. There was no statistically significant change in overall prescribing for smoking cessation medications after its introduction (P = 0.760), or after the publication of the related guidance in July 2007 (P = 0.134).

Conclusions: Soon after being introduced in England, varenicline was widely prescribed; after nicotine replacement therapy it was the most commonly prescribed cessation medication. However, this does not appear to have increased overall rates of prescribing for smoking cessation medication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Benzazepines / therapeutic use*
  • Bupropion / therapeutic use
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Electronic Health Records / statistics & numerical data
  • England
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Nicotine / therapeutic use
  • Nicotinic Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*
  • Quinoxalines / therapeutic use*
  • Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Smoking Cessation / methods
  • Smoking Cessation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Smoking Prevention
  • State Medicine
  • Time Factors
  • Varenicline


  • Benzazepines
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Quinoxalines
  • Bupropion
  • Nicotine
  • Varenicline