Access to Subsidized Smoking Cessation Medications by Australian Smokers Aged 45 Years and Older: A Population-Based Cohort Study

<span class=”paragraphSection”><div class=”boxTitle”>Abstract</div><div class=”boxTitle”>Introduction:</div>The principal aim of this study was to assess the accessibility of subsidized cessation medications to socioeconomically disadvantaged smokers, including smokers living in regional and remote communities.<div class=”boxTitle”>Methods:</div>Analyses used baseline questionnaire and linked Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme data for 18 686 regular smokers participating in the 45 and Up Study, a large-scale Australian cohort study of people aged 45 years and older. Participants who were dispensed nicotine replacement therapy, varenicline, or bupropion were identified from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme data, which provide an essentially complete record of participants’ access to subsidized pharmaceuticals. Associations between the supply of each pharmacotherapy and a range of sociodemographic and health-related variables were evaluated using multiple logistic regression.<div class=”boxTitle”>Results:</div>The odds that participants were supplied with a cessation medication declined markedly with increasing age for participants older than 60 years and were substantially higher for participants who smoked 20 or more cigarettes/day than for participants who smoked fewer than 10 cigarettes/day. Participants with no formal qualification and those residing in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas had higher odds of receiving nicotine replacement therapy or varenicline than university-educated participants and participants living in the least disadvantaged areas. There was no evidence that participants residing in regional and remote communities had lower odds of receiving a cessation medication than participants residing in major cities.<div class=”boxTitle”>Conclusions:</div>Older Australian smokers’ access to cessation pharmacotherapies is determined predominantly by age and daily cigarette consumption and does not appear to be limited by educational achievement, socioeconomic disadvantage, or remoteness.<div class=”boxTitle”>Implications:</div>Promoting the use of cessation medications is a principal measure proposed to achieve Australia’s <span style=”font-style:italic;”>National Tobacco Strategy 2012−2018</span> goal of reducing cigarette consumption among socioeconomically disadvantaged smokers. The results of this large-scale cohort study indicate that access to cessation pharmacotherapies is determined primarily by age and daily cigarette consumption, and is not limited by socioeconomic circumstances, providing some reassurance that existing government subsidies are sufficient to ensure that pharmaceutical aids are accessible to all Australian smokers.</span>

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