Covering smoking-cessation products for low-income smokers improved quit rates and reduced heart attacks by nearly half, ultimately saving taxpayer dollars, according to the first study measuring the effectiveness of a Massachusetts initiative, Reuters reported Dec. 7.
The study, led by Dr. Thomas Land, director of surveillance and evaluation at the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program, examined claims data for Medicaid beneficiaries going back to 2006, the year the antismoking-medication benefit went into effect.
During the first 2-1/2 years of the benefit, 40 percent of smokers receiving Medicaid purchased smoking-cessation aids (such as nicotine patches and gum). Over the same period, the number of recipients who smoked dropped by 10 percent. In addition, hospitalizations for heart attacks among Medicaid recipients fell by 46 percent, and hospitalizations for atherosclerosis fell by 49 percent.
The precipitous decline in hospitalizations related to heart disease among smokers who used the benefit “is stunning,” according to Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association (AHA).
“The Massachusetts study provides ample evidence that comprehensive smoking cessation benefits must be a core component of anti-tobacco initiatives,” according to the AHA press release.
The study was published online Dec. 7 in the journal PLoS Medicine.