Background: Varenicline, bupropion and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) are three effective pharmacotherapies for smoking cessation, but data about their safety in pregnancy are limited. We assessed the risk of adverse perinatal outcomes and major congenital anomalies associated with the use of these therapies in pregnancy in Australia.
Methods: Perinatal data for 1,017,731 deliveries (2004 to 2012) in New South Wales and Western Australia were linked to pharmaceutical dispensing, hospital admission and death records. We identified 97,875 women who smoked during pregnancy; of those, 233, 330 and 1057 were exposed to bupropion, NRT and varenicline in pregnancy, respectively. Propensity scores were used to match exposed women to those who were unexposed to any smoking therapy (1:10 ratio). Propensity scores and gestational age at exposure were used to match varenicline-exposed to NRT-exposed women (1:1 ratio). Time-dependent Cox proportional hazards models estimated hazard ratios (HR) with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) for any adverse perinatal event (a composite of 10 unfavourable maternal and neonatal outcomes) and any major congenital anomaly.
Results: The risk of any adverse perinatal event was not significantly different between bupropion-exposed and unexposed women (39.2% versus 39.3%, HR 0.93, 95% CI 0.73-1.19) and between NRT-exposed and unexposed women (44.8% vs 46.3%, HR 1.02, 95% CI 0.84-1.23), but it was significantly lower in women exposed to varenicline (36.9% vs 40.1%, HR 0.86, 95% CI 0.77-0.97). Varenicline-exposed infants were less likely than unexposed infants to be born premature (6.5% vs 8.9%, HR 0.72, 95% CI 0.56-0.92), be small for gestational age (11.4% vs 15.4%, HR 0.68, 95% CI 0.56-0.83) and have severe neonatal complications (6.6% vs 8.2%, HR 0.74, 95% CI 0.57-0.96). Among infants exposed to varenicline in the first trimester, 2.9% had a major congenital anomaly (3.5% in unexposed infants, HR 0.91, 95% CI 0.72-1.15). Varenicline-exposed women were less likely than NRT-exposed women to have an adverse perinatal event (38.7% vs 51.4%, HR 0.58, 95% CI 0.33-1.05).
Conclusions: Pregnancy exposure to smoking cessation pharmacotherapies does not appear to be associated with an increased risk of adverse birth outcomes. Lower risk of adverse birth outcomes in varenicline-exposed pregnancies is inconsistent with recommendations that NRT be used in preference to varenicline.
Keywords: Adverse outcomes; Australia; Birth defects; Bupropion; Nicotine replacement therapy; Pregnancy; Smoking cessation pharmacotherapy; Smoking in pregnancy; Varenicline.