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Experts Look At Effects Of Smoking Cessation Drug, 'Varenicline'

Smoking is the world's leading cause of premature death. Smokers who quit are able to significantly reduce their risk of premature death and other health issues -- almost completely if they quit by age thirty and by fifty percent if they quit after age fifty.

Because it's so difficult to quit smoking, many are turning to smoking cessation drugs, such as varenicline, to help minimize cravings and other withdrawal symptoms. Since elderly patients may handle medications differently than their younger counterparts, it's important to study a medicine's reactions in elderly people before recommendations are made regarding its use in the entire population.

In a recent study published in the November issue of SAGE Publications' The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, Dr. Aaron Burstein and his colleagues from Pfizer Global Research and Development, report on the first clinical trial studying the safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics of the drug varenicline on 65-75 year-old smokers. The researchers conducted a double blind study providing two random groups of participants with either varenicline or a placebo. Those receiving varenicline reported just mild adverse reactions, such as nausea, but since the reactions were so mild, no one withdrew from the study.

"It is important to evaluate the tolerability of a potential treatment for smoking cessation," write the authors. "The normal physiologic processes associated with aging can have diverse effects, particularly in the elderly population." The researchers concluded that the pharmacokinetics evident in elderly smokers with normal renal function taking varenicline were similar to that of younger, healthy persons and that the drug was well tolerated in this population, therefore it was unnecessary to adjust the dose of varenicline based solely on age.

Source: SAGE Publications. November 2, 2006

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