Magazine article Drug Topics

Antidepressant Offers Smokers Another Way to Kick Butts

Magazine article Drug Topics

Antidepressant Offers Smokers Another Way to Kick Butts

Article excerpt

Starting in July, smokers will have a nicotine-free way to quit smoking. It's Zyban (bupropion HCI) Sustained-Release Tablets, by Glaxo Wellcome Inc., Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Current OTC smoking-cessation aids work by replacing one form of nicotine delivery with another, allowing smokers to gradually wean themselves off the drug. Glaxo Wellcome claims, however, that bupropion uses a new approach, working directly on chemicals in the brain that lead to nicotine craving and addiction. Though the exact mechanism is not clear, studies indicate that bupropion boosts the brain's levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, chemicals that give a person a sense of well-being and energy, while decreasing the craving for nicotine.

Explained Glaxo Wellcome spokesman Bill Chapman, "There are two centers of addiction, the noradrenergic and dopaminergic mechanisms of the brain, which affect nicotine craving and withdrawal symptoms. The medication impacts these particular brain chemicals."

The active ingredient of these tablets, bupropion, has been prescribed as an antidepressant, Wellbutrin and Wellbutrin SR, since the 1980s.

Linda H. Ferry, M.D., M.P.H., began researching the drug as a smoking-cessation aid after she discovered that many of her patients' failure to kick the habit correlated with a history of depression. Although the drug is the same as Wellbutrin SR, the FDA approved a different name for the indication because, according to Ferry, smokers do not need information pertaining to antidepressants; instead, their Rx will include its own indications. Pharmacists and physicians will be able to keep track of whether the treatment is being used as an antidepressant or a smoking-cessation aid; and the dosages are different for each indication. Zyban is prescribed in a 150-mg dose, once a day for three days, then increased to 150 mg twice a day for the rest of treatment, while Wellbutrin dosages are higher.

Glaxo Wellcome believes bupropion may most benefit smokers who have failed to quit smoking by using other methods. According to Ferry, patients may want to try bupropion because it is nonaddicting. As bupropion treatment does not replace nicotine, it will help patients get over smoking without want-ing to stay on the medication. …

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