Decline in anti-smoking medications highlights need for payer focus on cessation programs, report says

Payers and employers need to renew promotion of smoking cessation programs as smoking levels appear to be on the rise nationwide, according to a report from the Evernorth Research Institute.

The March 31 report from Bloomfield, Conn.-based Evernorth, a health services subsidiary of Cigna, suggests that smoking rates among American adults are increasing after hitting an all-time low in 2018. An analysis of pharmacy claims representing approximately 294,000 people found a 38 percent decline in the use of smoking cessation medications from Jan. 1, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2021, suggesting that smoking levels are now on the rise.

The report cites pandemic-induced stress, the removal of leading cessation medication Chantix from the market in June 2021, and no growth of other cessation products in the meantime as reasons for the potential increase.

To improve the health of their members, the report says payers should increase awareness about a generic Chantix medication now available and about how smoking cessation programs are proven to help an individual quit smoking.

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