Thursday, April 19, 2007

Study helps smokers STOP smoking

If ever you’ve wanted to STOP smoking, now’s your chance.On April 5, the Ontario Pharmacist’s Association, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Ministry of Health Promotion launched the second phase of the Smoking Treatment for Ontario Patients (STOP) Study.

Under the program, as many as 5,000 Ontarians will be eligible to receive five weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in the form of a patch, gum or inhaler. Ian McDowell, a pharmacist at Coward Pharmacy in Tillsonburg, is among the 55 pharmacists in 43 locations provincewide, who are participating.

"I think this is very good," said McDowell. "Anything that will help people stop smoking will be of benefit to their long-term health, and of course will help lower costs to the health-care system."The first phase of the STOP Study was introduced in January, 2006, and was the first of its kind in Canada. With the help of NRT, at least 12 per cent of participants, or 1,600 Ontarians were able to quit smoking.
McDowell said there are two branches of this phase of the STOP study; one where participants receive three meetings with their pharmacist over the course of their five weeks of therapy, and another where participants receive all five weeks of NRT at once, with only one pharmacist intervention.

Placement in one branch or the other is completely random, McDowell explained, adding he’s not even sure which branch of the study an individual will be in, until he keys in their voucher number on the STOP Study website.The only difference between the two branches, he added, is that at the end of the study, data will be used to determine the effectiveness of a pharmacist’s intervention in helping someone quit smoking.Anyone who is over 18, not pregnant and is currently smoking is encouraged to go online to and complete a brief registration survey. Those deemed eligible for the study will be given a voucher number, which they then take to a participating pharmacist to redeem for free nicotine replacement therapy.
McDowell said he will help individuals choose the method of cessation therapy that will give them the best chance of success, but added individuals enrolled in the study who receive three counseling sessions with their pharmacist, are eligible to try different methods over the five weeks.Although the program was only officially launched a few days ago, McDowell said he’s already met with two local STOP study participants, and had an appointment to see one more before the week’s end.
He encouraged anyone who registers with the program to call the pharmacy and make an appointment to see him about the free NRT, as he’s not always on duty.
Although the STOP study has obvious benefits for smokers who want to quit, McDowell said he’d also like to see incentives for pharmacists who voluntarily administer such programs. This phase of the STOP Study will benefit as many as 5,000 Ontarians, but McDowell said the benefits of NRT are open to anyone who wants to quit."Anyone (pharmacist) can sell nicotine replacement therapy," he said. "But to be part of the study, you have to go through an approved pharmacist."
"Anyone (pharmacist) can sell nicotine replacement therapy. But to be part of the study, you have to go through an approved pharmacist."- Ian McDowell

By Nancy Boutin