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Varenicline Helps Prevent Smoker Relapse

Medication may have lower relapse rate than bupropion, but more likely to cause nausea

TUESDAY, July 4 (HealthDay News) -- Varenicline, the newly approved smoking-cessation drug, may have a lower relapse rate than sustained-release bupropion, but can cause side effects, such as nausea, according to three studies from the Varenicline Phase 3 Study Group published in the July 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In one study, 1,927 smokers were treated with varenicline for 12 weeks and 1,236 (64.1 percent) were abstinent from nicotine use in the last week of treatment. Of these, 1,210 were then randomized to receive additional treatment or placebo. The abstinence maintenance rate over the following 12 weeks was 70.5 percent for the varenicline group versus 49.6 percent for the placebo group.

Two related studies compared the efficacy of varenicline, sustained-release bupropion (bupropion SR) and placebo. One included 1,027 adult smokers, of whom 43.9 percent who were randomized to receive varenicline remained abstinent by weeks nine to 12 of the study, compared with 29.8 percent in the bupropion SR group and 17.6 percent in the placebo group.

In the other study, 1,025 smokers were randomized to receive varenicline, bupropion SR or placebo for 12 weeks, followed by 40 weeks of non-drug follow-up. Rates of abstinence were higher among the varenicline group in the last four weeks of the study, and maintenance was better sustained during the nearly one-year follow-up period.

An accompanying editorial cautions, however, that the drug is not a panacea for smoking as it produced a higher rate of side effects, notably nausea (30 percent of participants).

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