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No-Smoking Tip: Have a Sip

Liquid nicotine replacement therapy developed

WEDNESDAY, May 30, 2001 (HealthDayNews) -- Want to quit smoking? Start drinking.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center say they've developed a nicotine solution that can be added to your favorite beverage. The liquid form of nicotine replacement may soon join the patch, gum, nasal spray and nicotine inhaler on the growing list of smoking-cessation aids.

"We've been looking for other kinds of alternatives and ways to improve the tolerability of any kind of nicotine replacement therapy," says Dr. Eric Westman, assistant professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center's Department of Medicine in Durham, N.C.

"And this liquid has been on the drawing board for several years as we tried to figure out how to get significant nicotine blood levels to facilitate smoking cessation."

Westman and his colleagues -- including Jed Rose, the inventor of the nicotine patch -- tested the new nicotine solution on smokers who were asked to choose a date for quitting. The participants were then given vials of the solution -- a 12-week supply -- with instructions to add the solution to a beverage of their choice whenever a nicotine urge struck. The participants added anywhere from 3 to 10 milligrams of the solution to each drink. Three milligrams of the solution is close to the one milligram of nicotine you get by puffing on a cigarette.

"The number of people who stayed off cigarettes at four weeks, three months, and six months was 28 percent, 24 percent and 20 percent respectively," Westman says. "Those rates are typical of most smoking intervention tools currently available."

The pilot study will be published later this year, Westman says. The solution has already been patented and may be on the market in a "couple of years," he adds.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the nicotine patch in 1991, and in July 1996, it was approved for over-the-counter sales, according to the American Lung Association. Nicotine gum was available only by prescription until April 1996, when it became the first FDA-approved over-the-counter nicotine replacement product. Nicotine nasal spray and a nicotine inhaler are available only by prescription.

Studies have shown that more than 25 percent of U.S. adults smoke and that 70 percent of them would like to quit, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

Westman says another form of nicotine replacement therapy helps people who can't tolerate the patch. "Sometimes the speed of nicotine delivery is too slow for some people who are trying to quit, and the liquid allows the nicotine to be delivered faster than the patch and in a palatable way."

It's too early to tell if the liquid will be useful, says Ron Todd, the American Cancer Society's director of tobacco control. "I don't yet think there's enough information to determine its efficacy," he says.

Regardless, all these nicotine replacement therapies need strong FDA control, Todd says. "The issue is before Congress right now. As there are regulations for other drugs, we need regulations for the patch and the gum."

Nicotine is "a poison," Todd explains. "It's used in pesticides and it's not just some kind of harmless subject. If it's abused, there can be problems, and it just makes good sense to have nicotine replacement therapies regulated."

Todd says the liquid could be helpful. "It's nice to have as many alternatives as possible, as long as they're safe and effective."

What To Do

For more information on tobacco, its consequences, and ways to quit, see the CDC or the American Cancer Society.

And don't forget to read these other HealthDay stories on quitting smoking.

SOURCES: Interviews with Eric Westman, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, Department of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C., Ron Todd, M.S.E.S., director of tobacco control, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Ga.; Duke University School of Medicine press release
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