Trial Nicotine Gum Quickly Quells Cravings

Faster relief can help smokers kick the habit, say researchers

FRIDAY, Feb. 21, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- An experimental rapid-release nicotine gum may give smokers who are trying to quit faster relief from cravings than regular nicotine gum, says a new study.

Rapid-release nicotine gum provides peak nicotine levels in five to 10 minutes, compared to 15 to 20 minutes for Nicorette, a currently commercially available nicotine gum, according to one of the study's authors, Raymond Niaura, a professor of psychiatry at Brown Medical School/The Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I.

Niaura presented the results of the study Feb. 21 at the Ninth Annual Meeting of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco in New Orleans.

"We found that the rapid-release gum provided significantly quicker relief of cravings, as well as a more meaningful relief of cravings," Niaura says. "Nicorette is a good product, but for people in sticky situations, Nicorette won't help as well as something that releases more rapidly."

Niaura says one sticky situation for smokers trying to quit is when they are around other people who are smoking -- at a party, for example, where other people are smoking and they might be having an alcoholic drink. He says situations like this are real threats to a smokers' ability to stay off cigarettes.

A spokesperson at GlaxoSmithKline, makers of Nicorette, didn't return phone calls for comment.

Niaura and his colleagues recruited 319 current smokers for this study. In the lab, they gave the smokers their favorite cigarette and told them to light it, but not to smoke it. Then, half the group chewed the rapid-release gum and the other half chewed Nicorette for 30 minutes. The smokers completed 10 craving assessment surveys during that time.

Seventy-nine percent of the smokers chewing the rapid-release nicotine gum reported "meaningful" craving relief at 12 minutes, compared to 69 percent of the people chewing Nicorette. After 30 minutes, 77 percent of the Nicorette group reported relief of their cravings while 92 percent on the rapid-release gum reported relief.

"This study seemed to indicate slightly more rapid relief of urges," says Robert Baker, director of the Ochsner Center for the Elimination of Smoking in New Orleans. While he says that nicotine replacement alone won't get people off cigarettes for good, anything that can help smokers deal with the initial strong cravings for nicotine can help.

"This isn't a revolution, but may be a slight improvement," Baker says.

Another potential benefit to the rapid-release gum, according to Niaura, is that it can be chewed like regular gum. Nicorette gum, according to its Web site, needs to be chewed and then "parked" in the area between your gum and cheek to work properly.

He says the gum currently doesn't taste very good or come in flavors, as Nicorette does, but that is something that the researchers will work on in the future. The rapid-release gum doesn't have U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, but Niaura says the inventors of the gum are interested in pursuing approval now that it has been proven effective.

The study was independently funded by Bayer Consumer Care. The rapid-release gum was developed by two companies, JSR and Biovail Corp.

More information

The American Lung Association offers this information on different types of nicotine replacement therapy, and the American Cancer Society offers this Complete Guide to Quitting Smoking.

SOURCES: Raymond Niaura, Ph.D., professor, psychiatry, Brown Medical School/The Miriam Hospital, Providence, R.I.; Robert Baker, Ph.D., staff psychologist, Ochsner Clinic Foundation Hospital, and director, Ochsner Center for the Elimination of Smoking, New Orleans; Feb. 21, 2003, presentation, Ninth Annual Meeting of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, New Orleans
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