A new drug that is free of nicotine, designed especially to help people quit smoking, has just been found safe and effective in a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Its technical name is “varenicline” but it is known commercially as “Chantix.” Though Doctors Health Press doesn’t take pains to highlight new drugs very often, it does so when that medication provides new hope for conditions (or in this case, habits) that are difficult to treat.
The drug works by binding to a specific nicotine receptor in a smoker’s body. This receptor is part of the trigger that unleashes the pleasant, rewarding feelings that a smoker experiences upon inhaling. Varenicline, however, is stronger than nicotine, so when it binds to that receptor, it can push away that rewarding experience of smoking. On this bit of knowledge, researchers believed that the drug could start to eliminate the craving and withdrawal that makes smokers keep up their nasty habit.
Californian researchers randomly put 626 people on varenicline at three different doses, the drug “bupropion,” or a placebo pill. Each person continued with their treatment for one week before attempting to kick their smoking habit. They continued to take the drugs for another seven weeks. Afterward, the researchers followed their progress over one year. When three months were up, they found the following statistics:
— 39% of those taking the highest dose of varenicline had successfully quit smoking. — 20% of those taking bupropion had successfully quit smoking. — 10% of those on placebo had quit (apparently they have better mind control than they thought).
Here were the corresponding numbers at the end of one year — obviously they highlight a far different story than quitting for three months did:
— 14.4% (varenicline) — 6.3% (bupropion) — 5% (placebo)
As you can see, the staple of smoking cessation drugs, bupropion, is not much better for you than taking a placebo pill that does nothing to your body. However, as far as this study shows, the newly approved varenicline is twice as effective as bupropion. Researchers found that varenicline significantly reduced smokers’ cravings when they checked in on them each week.