Publicly subsidised smoking cessation medicines in times of COVID-19 in Australia: An interrupted time series analysis

Article


Baliunas, Dolly, Gartner, Coral, Hollingworth, Samantha A., Sullivan, Clair, Comans, Tracy and Pole, Jason D.. 2023. "Publicly subsidised smoking cessation medicines in times of COVID-19 in Australia: An interrupted time series analysis." Drug and Alcohol Review. 42 (1), pp. 225-232. https://doi.org/10.1111/dar.13557
Article Title

Publicly subsidised smoking cessation medicines in times of COVID-19 in Australia: An interrupted time series analysis

ERA Journal ID13493
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsBaliunas, Dolly, Gartner, Coral, Hollingworth, Samantha A., Sullivan, Clair, Comans, Tracy and Pole, Jason D.
Journal TitleDrug and Alcohol Review
Journal Citation42 (1), pp. 225-232
Number of Pages8
Year2023
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
ISSN0959-5236
1465-3362
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1111/dar.13557
Web Address (URL)https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dar.13557
Abstract

Introduction
In Australia, the available published literature demonstrated a spike in dispensed prescription medicines after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that subsequently returned to expected levels. Smoking cessation medicines may not follow this pattern because quit attempts are influenced by a range of factors. Knowledge of whether dispensing of these medicines has changed since the pandemic is lacking. We explored the change in dispensing of publicly subsidised smoking cessation medicines since the pandemic.

Methods
Australia's universal health-care system provides access to government-subsidised medicines via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and records of dispensed medicines are publicly available on a nationally aggregated level. We retrieved Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme data from January 2016 to January 2021. We used interrupted time series modelling to quantify the impact of COVID-19 on dispensing of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) patches, varenicline and all smoking cessation treatments combined separately.

Results
After an initial spike in medicines at the onset of the pandemic, the monthly rate of prescriptions dispensed for varenicline was predominantly within predicted ranges, while that of NRT patches was predominantly below predicted ranges.

Discussion and Conclusions
There has been a differential change in the number of subsidised smoking cessation medicines supplied in Australia since the COVID-19 pandemic, with varenicline prescriptions largely within, and NRT patches largely lower than, expected ranges. The reasons for the apparent change in dispensing of subsidised smoking cessation medicines are unclear.

Keywordsnicotine replacement therapy; smoking cessation treatment; varenicline; COVID-19; routinely collected health-care data
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020420399. Health services and systems not elsewhere classified
Byline AffiliationsUniversity of Queensland
University of Toronto, Canada
Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Australia
University of Queensland
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