May 3, 2006
Contact: Jerry Carey
Phone: (856) 566-6171
UMDNJ Researcher Reports on New Kind of Drug to Help Smokers Quit
NEW BRUNSWICK - In an article published this month in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, Dr. Jonathan Foulds, director of the Tobacco Dependence Program at the UMDNJ-School of Public Health, reports that a new kind of medication has been developed that appears to significantly increase the ability of smokers to end their dependence on tobacco.
The new medication, varenicline, successfully stimulates dopamine - sometimes called the brain’s pleasure chemical - while simultaneously blocking nicotine receptors. This reduces nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cravings and may also prevent a temporary lapse from becoming a full return to smoking. Varenicline is currently being evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under a six-month priority review, which began in late December 2005.
“What makes varenicline different to existing medications is that it is the first treatment specifically designed to target the neurobiological mechanism of nicotine dependence,” Dr. Foulds said. “Trials carried out so far have yielded promising results, suggesting the varenicline could be a major advance in the treatment of nicotine dependence.”
He noted that the FDA’s fast-track approach to varenicline is an indication of its importance in treating smoking, which causes 400,000 premature deaths in the United States each year.
“Drugs are normally earmarked for priority review by the FDA if they are felt to address health needs that are not currently being adequately met,” he said.
According to Dr. Foulds, existing quit smoking medications have limited success. Studies have shown that about 18 percent of people using current medications will still be smoke free after a year, compared with 10 percent of people prescribed placebos. Recent studies involving varenicline have shown that the short-term quit rates (12 weeks) were approximately four times higher than with placebos and the long-term quit rates (one year) were more than twice those of placebos.
In his article, Dr. Foulds summarizes 141 studies, covering more than 48,000 subjects, that evaluated the effectiveness of eight current medications used to quit smoking and reports on findings from recently completed clinical trials involving varenicline.
Dr. Foulds’s article in the International Journal of Clinical Practice is available online at http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1368-5031.2006.00955.x. To request an interview with Dr. Foulds, please contact Jerry Carey at the UMDNJ News Service at (856) 566-6171 or at (973) 972-3000.
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.