The smoking-cessation digital-therapeutic app Quit Genius was found to be an effective treatment for people trying to stop smoking, especially when they are compared to individuals seeking out their own regimen, according to new research from JMIR Mental Health.
The results from this study were only indicative for the short term, but researchers noted that a subsequent paper would be published analyzing the long-term effects of the digital-therapeutic app.
Quit Genius’ treatment relies on cognitive behavioral therapy to guide users through a year-long smoking cessation program. It uses strategies like self-monitoring, goal setting, encouraging medication adherence and providing feedback on progress to guide users through the program. Users also have access to a quit coach, an advisor qualified by the U.K.'s National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training, to guide and support them.
The study was funded by Quit Genius and included researchers that either received a salary from or own equity in the company.
The study included 530 participants, with 265 in the control and 265 in the test group. After four weeks from the initial quit date, more than 44% of participants using the Quit Genius digital therapeutic had not smoked in the last week, compared to about 29% in the control group.
The app also yielded high engagement rates among participants. By the date that participants stopped smoking, about 89% of those in the treatment group were actively using the app. At the time the primary outcome was collected, 74% were actively engaged.
Additionally, almost 70% of participants sent at least one in-app message to their coach, and on average people messaged their coach about once per week.
Participants in the treatment group were more likely to strongly agree that their knowledge of their smoking habits had improved. They reported being more confident and they also had improved self-efficacy to stop smoking after completing the preliminary intervention.
A majority (80%) of those in the treatment group reported being satisfied with the program at the four-week intervention, and 92% said they would recommend Quit Genius to a friend.
Of the features included in the app, most participants found the quit coach, the educational content and the CBT intervention to be the most helpful.
This study was a two-arm, single-blinded, parallel-group, preregistered randomized controlled trial with a four-week, six-month, and 12-month follow-up. The results of this paper included an analysis of the results from the four-week check-in only.
Participants were adult smokers who smoked at least five cigarettes a day for the past year, were not using any other form of smoking cessation support and had sufficient mobile phone functionality. They were recruited in the United Kingdom between January and November 2019.
Across both the treatment and control group, there were more men (53.6% and 56.2% respectively) and the average age was 41 years old. Most participants identified as white.
The researchers randomly placed participants into either the treatment group or the control group, which followed the “Ask, Advise, Act” structure that advised those in the control group to contact their local stop smoking service to get support and medication to quit smoking.
All participants were given the option to use nicotine replacement therapies for free for the first 12 weeks of intervention. Half of the participants were selected to use carbon monoxide monitors to validate self-reported smoking abstinence, but the use of a CO monitor did not impact a participant’s likelihood of quitting smoking.
THE LARGER TREND
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S., causing more than 480,000 deaths every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It estimates that nearly 34.2 million adults in the U.S. currently smoke cigarettes.
Most adults say they want to quit and, in 2018, over half of adult smokers in the U.S. tried to quit, according to the CDC. However, less than 10% of those individuals actually stopped smoking.
Over recent years, the use of digital therapeutics has become increasingly popular, especially in behavioral health treatments. These technology-delivered interventions can extend evidence-based therapies to more people at a reduced cost and with less patient burden, according to research published in JMIR Mental Health.
Even more recently, digital therapeutics have flourished, with COVID-19 pushing more people to adopt technology as a way to receive healthcare. The opportunity for digital therapeutics start-ups to partner with big pharma is growing. Several pharma executives shared how valuable this space is becoming at the recent DTx East 2020 web conference.
Quit Genius has operated in the smoking-cessation space for some time, but this summer the company expanded its offerings to include alcohol- and opioid-addiction treatment programs as well.
ON THE RECORD
“The digital therapeutic intervention examined here is an effective option for short-term smoking cessation. Participants were actively engaged and satisfied with the intervention,” the authors wrote in the paper. “Nevertheless, opportunities exist to improve mental well-being and attitudinal outcomes. A critical open question pertains to the long-term efficacy, which will be reported in a subsequent paper.”