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New drug can reduce nicotine cravings

Varenicline, a non-nicotine drug designed specifically for smoking cessation, appears to be safe and effective according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
/ Source: Reuters

Varenicline, a non-nicotine drug designed specifically for smoking cessation, appears to be safe and effective according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Varenicline is FDA-approved and marketed by Pfizer as Chantix.

It binds to a nicotine receptor that’s believed to trigger the rewarding effects felt with smoking. Because varenicline competes more strongly than nicotine to bind to the receptor, yet has less of a rewarding effect, the investigators figured that it would alleviate craving and withdrawal.

In a study, Dr. Mitchell Nides, from Los Angeles Clinical Trials, and the Varenicline Study Group randomly assigned 626 people to varenicline at three different doses, or to sustained-release bupropion (better known as Zyban), or placebo.

The participants used their assigned study drug for a week before quitting cigarettes completely. They took the pills for about seven weeks, then were followed for a year.

At the end of 12 weeks, the confirmed continuous quit rates were 38.8 percent for the highest dose of varenicline, 19.8 percent for bupropion, and 10.6 percent for placebo. At 52 weeks, corresponding rates were 14.4 percent, 6.3 percent and 4.9 percent.

Craving was significantly reduced at all weekly time points for highest-dose varenicline compared with placebo. Bupropion also reduced craving, but to a lesser extent.