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The Making of Medicine

Helping People Quit Smoking, While Learning How to Help Even More

Rural Appalachia has some of the highest smoking rates in the nation, and also some of the highest cancer rates. So UVA Cancer Center has teamed up with 14 community pharmacies across the region to test three different smoking-cessation programs, including one based on text messaging.

In total, 768 participants will receive nicotine replacement therapy through gum, a patch or both. In addition, they will be selected, at random, to either:

  • meet with a pharmacist (in person and over the phone) over the course of a month to discuss the nicotine-replacement therapy;
  • receive four 20- to 30-minute phone calls over a month from a trained tobacco treatment specialist;
  • receive three to five text messages each day for seven weeks from a text-messaging program developed by the National Cancer Institute.

“It is clear that publicly available smoking cessation resources are not reaching residents in this region,” said project leader Melissa Little, PhD, MPH, a researcher in the School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences. “We are hoping that by working with local community pharmacies, we’ll be able to help more smokers interested in quitting who otherwise may not have sought help with their quit attempt.”

Little notes that Appalachia is plagued by a shortage of healthcare providers and that community pharmacists could be well positioned to help fill that gap when it comes to helping people stop smoking.

“We conducted a small demonstration study in partnership with Gates Pharmacy, a community pharmacy in Mount Airy, N.C., to determine the feasibility of the approach,” she said. “Overall, the project was well received by both participants interested in quitting as well as the Gates pharmacists and technicians.”

The study is expected to begin in April and include pharmacies in Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia. For more information, mail or call study coordinator Taylor Reid at 434.924.8894.

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