Effect of Early Initiation of Varenicline on Smoking Cessation in COPD Patients Admitted for Exacerbation: The Save Randomized Clinical Trial

COPD. 2020 Feb;17(1):7-14. doi: 10.1080/15412555.2019.1703928. Epub 2019 Dec 19.


Our main objective was to demonstrate that, in smoker patients hospitalised for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) exacerbation, early initiation of varenicline during 12 weeks, combined with an intensive counselling, is associated with a higher continuous abstainers rate (CAR) at one year as compared to intensive counselling alone. In this multicenter, prospective, double-blind, randomised study, 81 smoking COPD patients hospitalised for an acute exacerbation for at least 24 h were allocated to receive either varenicline (n = 42) or placebo (n = 39) for 12 weeks, in association with an intensive counselling in the 2 groups, and followed up for 40 weeks. The primary outcome was CAR at week 52. Secondary outcomes included CAR at week 12 and 26, partial abstinence rate (PAR) at week 12, 26 and 52, nicotinic substitute consumption and adverse events. At week 52, CAR was not different in placebo and varenicline groups (25.6%). At week 12, CAR was significantly higher in the varenicline group (50%) as compared to placebo group (27%) (p = 0.041). Nicotine consumption was significantly higher at week 52 in the placebo group (55.3%) as compared to the varenicline group (24.4%) (p = 0.005). There was no significant difference in PAR at week 12, 26 and 52; the frequency of adverse events was similar between the two groups. Among active smoker COPD patients with exacerbation, 12-week varenicline associated with intensive counselling for smoking cessation increased the rate of continuous abstainers as compared to placebo. However, benefit was not maintained after varenicline discontinuation.Clinical Trials Registration: URL: http://www.controlled-trials.com. Unique identifier: NCT01694732.

Keywords: COPD; smoking cessation; tobacco smoking; varenicline.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Counseling / methods*
  • Disease Progression
  • Early Medical Intervention
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / complications
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy*
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Smoking Cessation Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / complications
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Varenicline / therapeutic use*


  • Smoking Cessation Agents
  • Varenicline

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01694732
  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01694732