Pharmacological Smoking Cessation Therapies in Older Adults: A Review of the Evidence

Philip B. Cawkwell, Caroline Blaum, Scott E. Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Nearly 12 % of adults 65 years and over in Europe and 9 % in the USA are current cigarette smokers. Numerous studies have demonstrated tangible benefits of smoking cessation, regardless of advanced age. However, it is unclear which pharmacotherapy strategies are most effective in the elderly population. To that end, the literature on smoking cessation in older adults was reviewed with the aim of identifying the safest and most effective cessation pharmacotherapies. MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were searched for all articles pertaining to elderly smoking cessation strategies. Randomized controlled trials and cohort studies were included. Studies were included without regard to population or intervention, as long as results were analyzed with a group of smokers aged 60 years and above and at least one arm of the study involved a pharmacotherapy. Only 12 studies were identified that met our inclusion criteria. The limited existing literature does not allow for a definitive answer to the most effective pharmacotherapy for smoking cessation in older adult smokers. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is the pharmacotherapy most studied in older adults, and the limited evidence that exists suggests that NRT is effective for smoking cessation among this population. Higher-quality studies that directly compare cessation strategies, including bupropion and varenicline, are needed in the older population in order to guide treatment decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-451
Number of pages9
JournalDrugs and Aging
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 18 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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