CVS pharmacists have helped more than 67,000 smokers to quit

March 10, 2015

From program launch through December 2014, CVS has sold 63% more smoking cessation products and seen 61% more Minute Clinic visits than it did during the same period a year earlier.

CVS Health’s smoking cessation program has helped more than 67,000 patients who wanted to quit smoking with counseling advice following a first prescription for a smoking cessation drug or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). The smoking cessation program was launched in September 2014.

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“One year ago, we knew that removing cigarettes and tobacco products from our stores would not be enough on its own to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our customers and patients who smoke,” said Troyen A. Brennan, MD, MPH, chief medical officer, CVS Health. “We believe our combined efforts of eliminating pharmacy-associated access to tobacco products, and a devoted smoking cessation program through our channels will help our patients on their path to better health.”

CVS pharmacists and nurse practitioners are involved in implementation of the smoking cessation program, which encompasses assessment of the patient to see if he or she is ready to quit, medications to help patients eventually become tobacco-free, and coaching and education, Brennan noted.

According to the American Cancer Society, nicotine withdrawal symptoms occur soon after a smoker stops using tobacco products or reduces the amount consumed. Patients can experience a range of symptoms, including irritability, restlessness, anxiety, headache, fatigue, an increase in appetite, depression, and sleep disturbances.

“Withdrawal is both physical and mental,” according to information from the American Cancer Society’s website, www.cancer.org. “Physically, the body reacts to the absence of nicotine. Mentally, the smoker is faced with giving up a habit, which calls for a major change in behavior. Emotionally, the smoker may feel like they’ve lost their best friend.”

“NRT can help relieve some of the physical withdrawal symptoms so that you can focus on the psychological aspects of quitting. Many studies have shown using NRT can nearly double the chances of quitting with success,” according to the American Cancer Society.

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Encouraging results

From the program launch through December 2014, prescription medications for smoking cessation increased by 63% on a monthly basis and smoking cessation counseling visits at the Minute Clinic climbed 61% compared to the previous eight months last year. In addition, sales of over-the-counter NRT products at CVS pharmacies also increased, at a rate of 21% during the last four months of 2014. Its pharmacies also provided more than 2 million customers with literature and “last pack” toolkits to encourage smokers to quit.

“The hard work of quitting smoking is worth it because there are many health benefits,” said Helena Foulkes, president of CVS/pharmacy. “Approximately seven in 10 smokers say they want to quite and about half attempt to quit each year. But challenges still exist, including the fact that fewer than half of smokers report being advised to stop smoking. Through our continuing efforts we hope to change that.”

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