Background: Smoking cessation medications have been shown to yield higher success rates and sustained abstinence than unassisted quit attempts. In Japan, the treatments available include nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and varenicline; however, unassisted attempts to quit smoking remain common.
Objective: The objective of this study was to compare the health and economic consequences in Japan of using pharmacotherapy to support smoking cessation with unassisted attempts and the current mix of strategies used.
Methods: A discrete-event simulation that models lifetime quitting behaviour and includes multiple quit attempts (MQAs) and relapses was adapted for these analyses. The risk of developing smoking-related diseases is estimated based on the duration of abstinence. Data collected from a survey conducted in Japan were used to determine the interventions selected by smokers initiating a quit attempt and the time between MQAs. Direct and indirect costs are assessed (expressed in 2014 Japanese Yen).
Results: Using pharmacotherapy (NRT or varenicline) to support quit attempts proved to be dominant when compared with unassisted attempts or the current mix of strategies (most are unassisted). The results of stratified analyses by age imply that smoking cessation improves health outcomes across all generations. Indirect costs due to premature death leading to lost wages are an important component of the total costs, exceeding the direct medical cost estimates.
Conclusions: Increased utilisation of smoking cessation pharmacotherapy to support quit attempts is predicted to lead to an increase in the number of smokers achieving abstinence, and provide improvements in health outcomes over a lifetime with no additional costs.