Moderators of smoking cessation outcomes in a randomized-controlled trial of varenicline versus placebo

Rae A. Littlewood, Eric D. Claus, Claire E. Wilcox, Jessica Mickey, Pamela B. Arenella, Angela D. Bryan, Kent E. Hutchison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Rationale and objective: Varenicline has gained a reputation as the optimal intervention for treatment resistant smokers, yet more than half of those who try it do not succeed. To better understand individual differences in the effectiveness of varenicline, this study evaluates the effectiveness of varenicline for smoking cessation in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial and examines the influence of psychological factors on treatment outcome. Method: Two hundred five cigarette smokers interested in quitting were randomly assigned to 12 weeks of varenicline or placebo. Outcomes examined were CO-confirmed continuous abstinence for the past month, average number of cigarettes smoked per day, and 7-day point prevalence. Results: Varenicline-treated participants were more likely than placebo to achieve continuous abstinence at the end of treatment (OR = 3.29; RR = 2.62), and 7-day point prevalence rates showed an effect of medication at each time point. Participants in both groups significantly reduced their smoking during the course of treatment and follow-up, and the medication by visit interaction was significant in the expected direction. Impulsivity and personality style emerged as moderators of the relationship between medication condition and treatment outcome. Conclusions: In addition to replicating efficacy results for varenicline versus placebo, the present study shows that the efficacy of pharmacotherapy is influenced by psychological factors. In an era where pharmacotherapy is often perceived as the “silver bullet,” we are reminded that smoking cessation is a dynamic process and intervention must be adaptable to address individual differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3417-3429
Number of pages13
Issue number23-24
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology


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