A new study by physicians in New Jersey at the University of Medicine and Dentistry (UMDNJ)–Robert Wood Johnson Medical School has identified a drug that may be effective in smoking cessation treatment for patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder without causing unnecessary harm and symptoms.
"Individuals with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder have a greater severity of nicotine dependence and therefore require a more potent treatment plan than the general population," said lead investigator Jill M. Williams, who is also an associate professor of psychiatry at the University.
"It is important, however, that treatments for smoking cessation do not cause unnecessary psychosocial concerns or negative reactions with other medications used in the treatment of schizophrenia."
The study looked at people with clinically stable schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder who were currently smokers and interested in quitting. They were randomly selected into either a group that received varenicline treatment or into a placebo group. The study consisted of a two-week screening period followed by a 12-week treatment period and a final 12-week follow up period.
After the treatment period, patients who received varenicline had a 19-percent higher smoking abstinence rate than in the controlled placebo group who showed a 4.7-percent abstinence rate.
After the 24-week trial period, those patients who received varenicline continued to show a decline in cigarette use, although at a smaller rate. Researchers also noted that during the trial, participants who received varenicline did not experience a significant impact to their schizophrenia symptoms, indicating this may be a safe and effective smoking cessation treatment for patients with schizophrenia.
The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, May 25 2012 and was funded by Pfizer Inc., which produces varenicline (brand name Chantix).