A combination of two drugs can help smokers kick their habit, latest research says.waferboard/Flickr

A combination of two drugs can help smokers kick the habit, claims latest research.

The study, reported in the journal JAMA, found that undergoing a therapy that combined two smoking cessation drugs - varenicline and bupropion - was more effective in helping people stop smoking than therapies using the single medication varenicline.

"We were interested in seeing if combining different medications together can improve the ability of patients to quit over and above single drug therapy," lead author of the study, Jon Ebbert, Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center, said in a news release. "What we found was an increase in quit rates, and the increase in quit rates was particularly strong in heavier and more dependent smokers."

During the study, participants were divided into two groups, according to the type of smoking cessation therapies they received. One therapy combined varenicline and bupropion, while the other treatment was based on placebo and varenicline.

Results showed that people in the combination therapy were more likely to succeed in prolonged abstinence (completely stop smoking for more than two weeks after the date of quitting), i.e. at 12 weeks (53 percent) and 26 weeks (36.6 percent), compared to the people who received varenicline alone (43.2 percent and 27.6 percent, at 12 and 26 weeks respectively).  

The combination therapy particularly benefitted heavy smokers. "For lighter smokers, using varenicline alone is just as effective as using both medications together," Dr. Ebbert, said. "But, if you're a heavy smoker, you really should consider using combination therapy to increase your success of quitting."

However, the combination therapy (7.2 percent, 3.6 percent) was associated with more anxiety and depressive symptoms than the latter one (3.1 percent, 0.8 percent).

The findings bring some hope as cigarettes contain about 4,000 toxic chemicals and have been linked to a wide range of diseases like lung cancer, heart diseases and stroke. According to experts, nearly 275 million people are addicted to tobacco in India, and tobacco will claim 1.5 million lives annually by the year 2020.

So efforts to find an effective way to help people stop smoking have been on for a long time. In September last year, a Delhi-based study reported that a simple breathing yoga exercise was highly effective in helping people quit smoking.