Smokers trying to kick the habit face odds that only a bookie could love--just one in five succeeds in quitting. Stanford University School of Medicine researchers will test whether a new type of medication could help smokers quit and bolster their chances of staying smoke-free for good.
Researchers at the Stanford Prevention Research Center are looking for regular smokers to try a skin patch that delivers a medication used to treat depression. The drug, selegiline, could help smokers combat the cravings they feel when they try to quit, said study leader Joel Killen, PhD, professor of medicine.
The medication, which is marketed under the name Emsam, is produced by Somerset Pharmaceuticals and Bristol-Meyers Squibb. The Food and Drug Administration approved the patch as an antidepressant treatment in February 2006.
The study seeks smokers between the ages of 18 and 65 who are interested in quitting, said Killen. Participants will wear a patch on their skin that delivers either selegiline or a placebo. Participants put on a new patch each day for eight weeks while trying to quit smoking.
For two months, the participants will go to a Stanford smoking cessation clinic in San Jose for weekly checkups. During these visits, participants will also receive individual counseling to help them stay smoke-free. The study will follow participants for a full year to track their progress at quitting.
Besides easing urges, the medication offers other benefits to smokers trying to quit, Killen said. "Many smokers develop symptoms of depression" after they quit, he said. Because selegiline is an antidepressant, it could stave off those feelings.
Doctors already prescribe antidepressants, such as bupropion (marketed as Zyban and Wellbutrin), to help smokers quit, but Killen's study is the first to use an antidepressant patch to help smokers kick the habit.
Medication delivery by patch offers a potential advantage over a pill by reducing side effects and providing a higher, more consistent level of the medication, Killen said.
In an earlier pilot study with nine smokers, Killen and colleagues found that the selegiline patch helped smokers quit, at least in the short term, but more interesting were their experiences during the process. Many of the participants said they felt calm and relaxed--a stark contrast to the usual anxiety and edginess experienced by people who try to stop, Killen said.
If the medication can help alleviate those symptoms, smokers will not only have an easier time quitting, but may be less likely to start smoking again, Killen said.
"The issue is whether and to what extent you can produce long-term abstinence," he said.
Interested participants should contact study coordinator Dalea Fong at (866) 218-7848 or email@example.com. Participants need to currently smoke at least 10 cigarettes a day.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse is funding the study, which will last for four years.
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