Varenicline for Tobacco-Dependent Adults Who Are Not Ready to Discontinue Use: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Rationale: Not all individuals with tobacco dependence are ready to give up smoking. Research reveals behavioral differences between adults ready to discontinue tobacco use and those who are not. Thus, the interventions applied to these populations might differ. However, the evidence of using varenicline in individuals who are not ready to discontinue tobacco use is uncertain. Objectives: To determine if, in tobacco-dependent adults who report not being ready to discontinue tobacco use, clinicians should begin treatment with varenicline or wait until subjects are ready to discontinue tobacco use. Methods: We conducted a systematic review to assess the effectiveness and safety of treatment with varenicline in tobacco-dependent adults who are not ready to discontinue tobacco use. We systematically searched the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Embase, MEDLINE, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials to identify randomized controlled trials comparing varenicline versus placebo for individuals who were not ready to discontinue tobacco use. Outcomes of interest include point prevalence abstinence during treatment or at six months or longer, smoking reduction, motivation to quit, adverse events, and withdrawal symptoms. Two authors independently extracted data and assessed eligibility and risk of bias using a standardized data collection form. We followed the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluations approach to assess the certainty of evidence. Results: Five trials met our inclusion criteria. All 2,616 participants were adults who were not ready to discontinue tobacco use at study entry. For 7-day point prevalence abstinence at six months or longer, high-certainty evidence suggested that varenicline increased abstinence compared with placebo (relative risk, 2.00 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.70-2.35]; absolute risk reduction, 173 more per 1,000 [95% CI, 121 more to 234 more]). We identified moderate-certainty evidence suggesting that varenicline increased serious adverse events (relative risk, 1.75 [95% CI, 0.98-3.13]; absolute risk reduction, 12 more per 1,000 [95% CI, 0 fewer to 35 more]). For withdrawal, low-certainty evidence suggested that varenicline treatment was associated with a lower symptom score (mean difference, 1.54 points lower; 95% CI, 2.15-0.93 points lower; low certainty) assessed using the Brief Questionnaire of Smoking Urges. Conclusions: In tobacco-dependent adults who are not ready to discontinue tobacco use, initiating varenicline treatment results in a large increase in abstinence and likely results in a slight increase in serious adverse events.


  • Lopes, Luciane Cruz
  • Zhang, Yuan
  • Ross, Stephanie
  • Fulone, Izabela
  • Zhu, Meng
  • O’Brien, Kelly K
  • Pavalagantharajah, Sureka
  • Leone, Frank T
  • Sachs, David PL
  • Kathuria, Hasmeena
  • Murray, Rachael L
  • Zhang, Yu-Qing

publication date

  • December 2022