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The Effects of Prescribing Varenicline on Two-year Health Outcomes: an Observational Cohort Study Using Electronic Medical Records

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalAddiction
StateAccepted/In press - 19 Dec 2017

Abstract

Aims
To investigate whether smokers prescribed varenicline had lower risks of serious ill-health in the four years following treatment compared with those prescribed nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).
Design
Observational cohort study of electronic medical records.
Setting
370 UK general practices sampled from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink.
Participants
126,718 patients aged 18 and over who were issued smoking cessation prescriptions between 1 September 2006 and 31 March 2014.
Measurements
Our primary outcome was all cause mortality within two years of first prescription as indicated by linked Office of National Statistics data. Our secondary outcomes were cause-specific mortality, all-cause, cause-specific hospitalization, primary care diagnosis of myocardial infarction or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), body mass index and attendance rate to primary care within two years of first prescription. Risk differences and 95% confidence intervals were estimated by multivariable adjusted regression and propensity score matched regression. We used instrumental variable analysis to overcome residual confounding.
Findings
People prescribed varenicline were healthier at baseline than those prescribed NRT in almost all characteristics, highlighting the potential for residual confounding. Our instrumental variable analysis results found that people prescribed varenicline had similar risk of mortality at two years (risk difference per 100 patients treated=0.67, 95% confidence interval (95%CI):-0.11 to 1.46) to those prescribed NRT, and there were similar rates of all-cause hospitalization, incident primary care diagnoses of myocardial infarction and COPD. People prescribed varenicline subsequently attended primary care less frequently.

Conclusions
Smokers prescribed varenicline in primary care in the United Kingdom do not appear to be less likely to die, be hospitalized, or experience a myocardial infarction or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the following 2 years compared with smokers prescribed nicotine replacement therapy but they gain more weight and attend primary care less frequently.

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