Low-Cost Intervention Helps Elderly Stop Smoking

Quit rate is highest for those who receive free quit-line services and nicotine patches

MONDAY, Nov. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Among Medicare beneficiaries who want to quit smoking, a telephone quit-line in conjunction with low-cost pharmacotherapy is more effective than other interventions, according to study findings released online in advance of publication in an upcoming issue of Health Services Research.

Geoffrey F. Joyce, Ph.D., a senior economist for RAND in Santa Monica, Calif., and colleagues studied 7,354 seniors who enrolled in the Medicare Stop Smoking Program and received either usual care, reimbursement for provider counseling, reimbursement for provider counseling with pharmacotherapy, or telephone quit-line counseling with nicotine patches.

After a 12-month follow-up, the researchers found that the unadjusted quit rates were higher for subjects who received telephone quit-line counseling with nicotine patches (19.3 percent) than for those who received usual care (10.2 percent), provider counseling (14.1 percent), or provider counseling with pharmacotherapy (15.8 percent). Compared to usual care, the investigators found that the additional cost per quitter for the interventions ranged from several hundred dollars to $6,450.

"The results of this study suggest that a fully integrated benefit structured around low-cost pharmacotherapy in conjunction with available free quit-line services would substantially reduce the prevalence of smoking and smoking-related illness among elderly beneficiaries motivated to quit, at a relatively modest cost," the authors conclude. "Future work should examine the reduction in medical costs associated with cessation among older smokers to assess how coverage of these services affects total Medicare outlays."

Full Text (subscription or payment may be required)

Physician's Briefing