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More Evidence Chantix Helps Smokers Quit
by: Robert Preidt

A new drug called Chantix (varenicline tartrate) provides short- and long-term help for smokers trying to quit, according to two U.S. studies published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The drug, approved this May by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, mimics the effects of nicotine to quell cravings for cigarettes. The new findings mirror those of three studies published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study included healthy smokers aged 18 to 65 randomly assigned to receive Chantix in a dosage of .3 milligrams once daily, 1 milligram once daily, or 1 milligram twice daily for six weeks, plus placebo for one week; to 150 milligrams of sustained-release bupropion (Zyban) twice daily for seven weeks; or to placebo for seven weeks.

Zyban is an antidepressant also used for smoking cessation.

Four-week continuous quit rates were 48 percent for Chantix, 1 milligram twice daily; 37.3 percent for Chantix, 1 milligram daily; 33.3 percent for Zyban; and 17.1 percent for placebo.

Long-term quit rates, from four weeks to one year, were 14.4 percent for Chantix, 1 milligram twice daily and 4.9 percent for placebo, the researchers found.

Drug maker Pfizer provided funding for this study and was involved in all elements of the study, including its design and monitoring.

Another study conducted by the same research team at the University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, found that Chantix, taken over 12 weeks, was effective in helping smokers quit. Pfizer also funded this study and was involved in all its elements.

The findings from these studies demonstrates that Chantix helps in smoking cessation, Dr. Bankole A. Johnson, of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, wrote in an accompanying editorial. Johnson also outlined the development of other approaches to treat nicotine addiction.

"In sum, pharmacological and immunological studies are opening up new vistas for safe, efficacious and potent treatments for nicotine dependence," Johnson wrote. "Molecular genetic studies are also investigating how to identify those individuals vulnerable to becoming nicotine dependent and, once they are dependent, the treatments that might work best for them. All these advances will deliver real aid to curbing smoking. Now, a smoker who wants help to quit no longer has a legitimate excuse to delay seeking treatment."

Johnson has consulting agreements with a number of drug companies.

A review in the same issue of the Archive of Internal Medicine noted that a plant-derived medication called cytisine has been used to treat tobacco dependence in Eastern Europe for 40 years, but has received little notice in English-language medical literature.

Cytisine is an alkaloid found in a plant called the golden rain tree (Cytisus laburnum).

Review author Jean-Francois Etter of the University of Geneva, Switzerland, found 10 studies conducted on cytisine in Bulgaria, Germany, Poland and Russia between 1967 and 2005. The research suggests that cytisine is effective for smoking cessation.

The studies may have received little attention because they were not published in English and didn't conform to current standards of conducting and reporting drug trials, Etter wrote.

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