Results from a
new study have found that a nicotine-free drug, bupropion hydrochloride SR
(Zyban), was significantly more effective than a placebo in helping smokers
who were unwilling or unable to quit to first reduce their cigarette use and
then eventually quit. Ultimately, the study may offer physicians an
alternative approach in treating their tobacco-using patients who have the
greatest difficulty in quitting.
The results were presented yesterday at the 7th Annual Society for Research on
Nicotine and Tobacco Meeting in Seattle, Washington.
"Certainly, smoking cessation is the clear goal in treating tobacco
addiction," said Dr. Dorothy Hatsukami, one of the authors of the study and
professor at the University of Minnesota. "However, alternative approaches to
usual smoking cessation methods may be necessary for smokers who aren't quite
ready or who are ambivalent about quitting. If we can motivate these smokers
to make a quit attempt and to make the attempt sooner than later, we can
possibly increase overall the population of successful quitters."
During the reduction phase of the study, smokers who were not considering
quitting and had previously failed at least twice were given bupropion SR or
placebo for up to six months and asked to gradually reduce their cigarette
consumption by 50 percent. In the cessation arm of the study, a target-quit
date was set and the smokers were given an additional seven weeks of
Continuous smoking abstinence rates at week seven in the cessation arm
were significantly higher in patients receiving bupropion SR compared with
those receiving a placebo (14 percent vs. 8 percent, p=0.03). Additionally,
the median time to make a cessation attempt for patients taking bupropion SR
was 64 days versus 118 days for patients on placebo.
The results of the study show that smokers who are unwilling to quit can
reduce their smoking through the use of Zyban, but more importantly this
reduction can lead to quitting. This approach may be an alternative for
smokers who are not ready to quit and for physicians who are unsure about how
to treat this population of smokers. The ultimate goal is to get smokers to
quit using tobacco products. This study is in line with the recent Institute
of Medicine report that encouraged examination of reduced smoking approaches
as an alternative treatment method.
GlaxoSmithKline funded the study; the company markets the smoking
cessation treatment bupropion SR, which is also known as Zyban.