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Drug Plus Weight Counseling Helps Women Quit Smoking

Study Shows Success With Zyban and Counseling on Weight Management

By Katrina Woznicki
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

March 22, 2010 -- Combining a smoking-cessation medication with behavioral therapy that emphasizes weight management is effective in helping women abstain from smoking, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that taking the smoking-cessation drug Zyban while participating in a behavioral therapy program that addressed weight gain improved smoking-cessation rates consistently over a period of six months and led to longer periods until relapse.

There were 349 women in the study, divided into four groups:

  1. Zyban plus weight-focused counseling
  2. Zyban plus standard counseling
  3. Placebo plus weight-focused counseling
  4. Placebo plus standard counseling

The study, published in the March 22 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, shows that:

  • Overall, 31.8% of the women had abstained from smoking after three months, 21.8% after six months, and 16.3% after one year.
  • Among women receiving Zyban and undergoing weight-focused counseling, 40.6% had abstained from smoking at three months compared with 18.4% of those taking a placebo and receiving weight-focused counseling.
  • At six months, 34% of women receiving Zyban and weight-focused counseling remained smoke-free compared with 11.5% of the placebo and weight-focused counseling group.
  • At 12 months, 23.6% of the Zyban patients remained smoke-free vs. 8.1% of patients receiving a placebo and weight-focused counseling.

Patients getting Zyban plus weight-focused counseling were slower to relapse, with a median of 266 days to relapse vs. 46 days for women getting a placebo plus weight-focused counseling, the researchers reported.

The weight-focused behavioral therapy program proved to be critical to the patients' success. The weight-focused and standard counseling interventions both involved 12, 90-minute group therapy sessions over a three-month period. On average, women attended almost three-fourths of all the counseling sessions. Zyban or a placebo was taken over a six-month period.

Recent statistics from the CDC show that nearly 19% of adult women living in the United States smoke.

Smoking causes the body to burn calories faster; metabolism often slows when people quit. Weight gain is a significant concern to women who want to kick the habit and is often cited as a top reason for being unable to quit. According to the National Institutes of Health, smokers who do gain weight after quitting put on an average of 4 to 10 extra pounds.

"Many women smokers are concerned about the weight gain that commonly accompanies an attempt to quit smoking," the researchers write. Future research, they continued, should focus on the possible mechanisms behind this treatment approach and address the potential of using among larger groups of smokers.

SOURCES: CDC: "Cigarette Smoking in the United States, 2004."

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "You Can Control Your Weight as You Quit Smoking."

Levine, M. Archives of Internal Medicine, March 22, 1010; vol 170: pp 543-550.

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