Characteristics of COPD smokers and effectiveness and safety of smoking cessation medications

Nicotine Tob Res. 2012 Sep;14(9):1035-9. doi: 10.1093/ntr/nts001. Epub 2012 Feb 17.


Introduction: Smoking is the main cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and smoking cessation is the only treatment shown to be effective in arresting the progression of COPD. Different epidemiological and population-based studies have shown smokers with COPD to have specific smoking characteristics that differentiate them from the rest of smokers and which complicate smoking cessation. The main objective of this study is to analyze the effectiveness and safety of drug treatments for smoking cessation in smokers with severe or very severe COPD.

Methods: Smokers with severe or very severe COPD (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease stages III and IV) received treatment for smoking cessation. The treatment program consisted of a combination of behavioral therapy and drug treatment. Patients were followed up at 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 18, and 24 weeks after the quit date.

Results: Four hundred seventy-two patients were seen, 65% were male, and their mean age was 58.3 (9.8). They smoked an average of 29.7 (13.4) cigarettes/day, and their mean Fagerström test for nicotine dependence score was 7.4 (2.1). Continuous abstinence rate from 9 to 24 weeks (CAR 9-24) was 48.5%. According to type of treatment used, CAR 9-24 for nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), bupropion, and varenicline were 38.2%, 55.6%, and 58.3%, respectively. Varenicline was more effective than nicotine patches: 61% versus 44.1% (odds ratio: 1.98; 95% CI: 1.25-3.12; p = .003). NRT was the treatment producing the fewest adverse effects. The onset of psychiatric symptoms due to medication was rare and evenly distributed across groups.

Conclusions: This study shows that smokers with severe or very severe COPD are predominantly males with a high degree of physical dependence upon nicotine. CAR 9-24 was 48.5%. Varenicline and bupropion yielded higher abstinence rates than NRT. Varenicline was more effective than nicotine patches: all types of treatments were safe.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Benzazepines / administration & dosage
  • Causality
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nicotinic Agonists / administration & dosage*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology
  • Quinoxalines / administration & dosage
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Spain
  • Tobacco Use Cessation Devices / statistics & numerical data*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / epidemiology
  • Varenicline


  • Benzazepines
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Quinoxalines
  • Varenicline