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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 07/14/99
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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Investigational Medication To Help Quit Smoking

CincinnatióResearchers from the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine and the VA Medical Center in Cincinnati are conducting studies to find better treatments to help people stop smoking. Robert Anthenelli, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at UC, and his research group who call themselves the SmokeBusters, are one of eight sites nationwide testing the effectiveness and safety of a new medication to treat nicotine dependence. The research medication may help smokers quit smoking by correcting some of the chemical imbalances in the brain which occur when a person abruptly stops smoking.

The three states that comprise our Tristate region have the highest incidence of smokers in the country. Kentucky ranks number one, Ohio is second, and Indiana third, according to Anthenelli. Approximately 30 percent of the residents of those states smoke regularly, a figure substantially above the national average of 25 percent.

Cigarette smoking is a major public health concern. Tobacco-related mortality accounts for 19 percent of all deaths in the US each year, making cigarette smoking the leading preventable cause of premature death in our country. The economic cost due to tobacco-related illnesses is staggering, amounting to $65 billion spent each year in the US on smoking-related conditions.

Each year, 34 percent of smokers try to quit, but less than 3 percent succeed. Medications for smoking cessation increase these quit rates substantially, especially when combined with behavioral interventions. Currently, two types of medications are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as smoking cessation aids. Nicotine replacement therapy may be given in the form of chewing gum, skin patches, inhalers, and sprays. The second type, Zyban (buproprion HCl sustained-released tablets) is taken orally. Despite the proven efficacy of these drugs over placebos, only two to three out of ten smokers who use them remain smoke-free after six months.

The new medication study being conducted by Anthenelli's group is sponsored by an international pharmaceutical company. In this placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial, eligible volunteers who are motivated to quit smoking are randomized to receive either the new medication or a placebo. All participants receive standardized counseling from a trained research associate to help them stop smoking. For more information about befloxatone or participation in the clinical trial, please call Karen, Stephanie, or Elizabeth at (513) 475-OHIO (6446).

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