Many tobacco cessation quitlines provide nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in the U.S. but consensus is lacking regarding the best shipping protocol or NRT amounts. We evaluated the impact of the Minnesota QUITPLAN(®) Helpline's shift from distributing NRT using a single eight-week shipment to a two-shipment protocol. For this observational study, the eight week single-shipment cohort (n = 247) received eight weeks of NRT (patches or gum) at once, while the split-shipment cohort (n = 160) received five weeks of NRT (n = 94), followed by an additional three weeks of NRT if callers continued with counseling (n = 66). Patient satisfaction, retention, quit rates, and cost associated with the three groups were compared. A higher proportion of those receiving eight weeks of NRT, whether in one or two shipments, reported that the helpline was "very helpful" (77.2% of the single-shipment group; 81.1% of the two-shipment group) than those receiving five weeks of NRT (57.8% of the one-shipment group) (p = 0.004). Callers in the eight week two-shipment group completed significantly more calls (3.0) than callers in the five week one-shipment group (2.4) or eight week single-shipment group (1.7) (p < 0.001). Using both responder and intent-to-treat calculations, there were no significant differences in 30-day point prevalence abstinence at seven months among the three protocol groups even when controlling for demographic and tobacco use characteristics, and treatment group protocol. The mean cost per caller was greater for the single-shipment phase than the split-shipment phase ($350 vs. $326) due to the savings associated with not sending a second shipment to some participants. Assuming no difference in abstinence rates resulting from the protocol change, cost-per-quit was lowest for the five week one-shipment group ($1,155), and lower for the combined split-shipment cohort ($1,242) than for the single-shipment cohort ($1,350). Results of this evaluation indicate that while satisfaction rates increase among those receiving more counseling and NRT, quit rates do not, even when controlling for demographic and tobacco use characteristics.
Keywords: NRT; cessation medications; cost effectiveness; nicotine replacement therapy; program evaluation; tobacco cessation.