New drug for smoking cessation is under investigation

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A new drug might help people to kick the habit.

A recent study published in the latest issue of the scientific medical journal, Archives of Internal Medicine reports on the potential use of a new drug varenicline to help smokers quit the habit. Varenicline received FDA approval for sale earlier this year.

Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the United States as well as other Western countries. The addictive habit causes approximately 440,000 deaths in the U.S. each year and costs approximately $157 billion per annum in health-related economic losses. In 2000, 70 percent of those who smoked wanted to quit smoking. Each year over half of all daily smokers try to quit. But long term success rates are generally not over 40 percent.

In a multicenter, randomized, double-blind phase II clinical trial, 638 men and women aged 18-65 who smoked an average of 10 cigarettes per day during the previous year, without a period of abstinence of more than 3 months, where put on placebo, bupropion (another drug used as a smoking cessation aid, brand name Zyban®), or different treatment schedules of varenicline for 7 weeks. Subjects were tested for continuous quitting by measuring exhaled carbon monoxide. After one year, the success rates were 14.4%, 6.3% and 4.9% for varenicline, bupropion and placebo, respectively.