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Health economists at Brunel supporting world-leading smoking-cessation trial

Over 2000 people from central New Zealand who smoke will be invited to join a community-based clinical trial to compared two types of quit smoking medicine. The trial will determine whether the two medicines are at least as effective and safe as each other, and which is the best value for money.

The RAUORA study, run by the researchers at the University of Auckland, in conjunction with the Health Economics Research Group (HERG) at Brunel University London and Lakes District Health Board, aims to see whether two similar medicines, Tabex and Champix, can help people quit smoking. The study focuses on a population with higher than average smoking rates (and consequently higher than average smoking related illness), namely indigenous New Zealanders (Māori) and members of their family. Currently, 3 in 10 Māori smoke – three times more than non-Māori- and so supporting them to quit smoking is a priority of the New Zealand government.

The launch of the trial, and a recruitment promotional video, received high profile coverage in a New Zealand newspaper: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/health/news/article.cfm?c_id=204&objectid=11919646

New Zealand is one of only a handful of countries with a smokefree goal. Associate Professor Natalie Walker, the Lead Investigator from the University of Auckland said, “Our country’s smokefree 2025 goal means that less than 5% of the adult population will be smoking by 2025. No-one should be left behind in our journey to reach this goal, which is why we need to provide extra support for those populations that still have very high rates of smoking."

Both Tabex and Champix help people quit smoking by blocking the effects of nicotine on the brain, which means smoking is less rewarding. Champix (varenicline) is currently the most effective stop smoking medication available, but is very expensive. Tabex has been available in Eastern and Central Europe for at least 40 years, but is not yet approved for use in New Zealand. Tabex contains a chemical called cytisine, which is from a plant called the Golden Rain. Cytisine is found in many plants around the world, including plants in New Zealand.

“Cytisine as a smoking cessation medication, is cheaper than varenicline,” said HERG’s Dr Subhash Pokhrel. “But we don’t know whether one medicine is better than the other, or whether they are equally good at helping people to give up smoking. This study will also help us establish whether cytisine is as cost-effective as varenicline at improving the health of this priority population”.

Results from the trial are expected in May 2019