Varenicline helps smokers with depression to quit smoking

September 16, 2013

About half of smokers seeking treatment for smoking cessation have a history of depression. Compared with smokers who are not depressed, those who suffer from a major depressive disorder (MDD) have greater difficulty quitting.

In a Pfizer-sponsored clinical trial to assess the effect of varenicline (Chantix) on smoking cessation, as well as mood and in smokers with current or a history of depression, researchers concluded that the drug does help some of these patients to quit smoking without worsening or anxiety.

The study was led by Robert Anthenelli, MD, associate chief of staff for mental health at VA San Diego Healthcare System and professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego School of Medicine, where he directs the Pacific Treatment and Research Center. It will be published September 17 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

"Depression and smoking are among the leading causes of disability and death in the world, yet studies testing smoking cessation drugs generally exclude participants who are taking antidepressants, and are high among those who do manage to quit," said Anthenelli. "To our knowledge, this was the first randomized, controlled study of the prescription drug, varenicline, which we found to help patients with depression quit smoking, without worsening their depressive symptoms."

The study looked at 525 adult smokers with stable current or past major depression, from 38 centers in eight countries. The study participants smoked at least 10 cigarettes a day, and were motivated to quit smoking. They took either varenicline or a placebo twice daily for 12 weeks; after treatment ended, researchers followed them for an additional 40 weeks.

During the last four weeks of treatment, 36 percent of those treated with varenicline quit smoking, compared with 16 percent of the placebo group. At the end of the 40-week follow up, 20 percent of the varenicline group continued to abstain from smoking, compared to10 percent of the . No differences were reported between the groups in mood, anxiety or thoughts about suicide, according to the researchers.

"While this study didn't look at smokers with untreated depression, this drug may improve efforts by depressed smokers to quit and to maintain abstinence from tobacco use," Anthenelli said.

Explore further: Starting smoking cessation medication earlier may make it easier to quit

Related Stories

Spine patients who quit smoking report diminished pain

March 19, 2013

Smoking is a known risk factor for back pain and disc disease. In a new study presented today at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), researchers reviewed smoking cessation rates ...

Quitting smoking: Licensed medications are effective

May 30, 2013

Nicotine replacement therapy and other licensed drugs can help people quit smoking, according to a new systematic review published in The Cochrane Library. The study, which is an overview of previous Cochrane reviews, supports ...

Recommended for you

Mobile app records our erratic eating habits

September 24, 2015

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner? For too many of us, the three meals of the day go more like: office meeting pastry, mid-afternoon energy drink, and midnight pizza. In Cell Metabolism on September 24, Salk Institute scientists ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.