Pill eases craving

From Dallas, Texas, at a meeting of the American Heart Association

An experimental drug called varenicline helps smokers kick the habit better than does bupropion, the only drug currently prescribed for the task, a U.S.-Norwegian team of researchers finds.

In two studies, the researchers gave 2,045 U.S. smokers a placebo, varenicline, or bupropion—marketed as Amfebutamone, Wellbutrin, or Zyban. After 12 weeks, the quit rate was 44 percent for those getting varenicline, 30 percent for the bupropion group, and 18 percent for the placebo group, reports Serena Tonstad, a physician at Ullevål University Hospital in Oslo.

Varenicline is administered twice daily in pill form. The drug partially blocks a protein that sits on the surfaces of cells. When nicotine binds to this protein, it triggers release of dopamine, providing the effect that makes nicotine addictive. While varenicline causes the release of some dopamine, “the release is not as much and not as rapid as with smoking,” Tonstad says.

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