Anti-Smoking Drug Backed by 3 Studies; Rate of Abstinence Found Higher

Article excerpt

Byline: Joyce Howard Price, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Three studies released yesterday indicate that the newly approved drug varenicline is more effective than bupropion or a placebo in helping smokers overcome nicotine addiction.

"Varenicline was significantly more efficacious than placebo for smoking cessation at all time points and significantly more efficacious than bupropion SR at the end of 12 weeks of drug treatment and at 24 weeks," David Gonzales of the Smoking Cessation Center of the Oregon Health & Science University wrote in one of the peer-reviewed reports, published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Although some anti-smoking specialists worry the publication of these positive findings will wrongly convince some smokers that Pfizer Inc.'s varenicline is a panacea, even the skeptics call it "promising."

Most smoking-cessation drugs are nicotine-replacement therapies. But Pfizer's varenicline, which is marketed as Chantix and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May, is a non-nicotine drug that is thought to be beneficial for curbing smoking by stimulating the release of dopamine in the brain to reduce craving and withdrawal.

In the experiment, it was compared with GlaxoSmithKline's sustained-release (SR) bupropion, an anti-smoking treatment without nicotine marketed as Zyban that has been on the market for nearly a decade.

When the FDA approved bupropion in 1997 as an anti-smoking aid, it was an antidepressant being sold as Wellbutrin. When the drug was approved for smoking cessation, its name became Zyban.

In the Oregon-led study, participants were randomly assigned to receive twice daily either varenicline, bupropion or a placebo for 12 weeks. …