Antidepression Drug More Effective Than Nicotine Replacement at Helping Women Quit Smoking

05/01/02    Portland, Ore.

Bupropion, a smoking cessation medication also used to treat depression, may be a better choice than nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) for women who want to quit smoking for good. Previous studies have found that relapse rates are higher for women than men when treated with NRT, such as nicotine patches or nicotine gum. A study conducted at Oregon Health & Science University and four other clinical centers has found equal rates of cessation among men and women when treated with the medication.

The findings are published in the May issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Bupropion, marketed in sustained release form as Zyban and prescribed in antidepressant form as Wellbutrin, is a nicotine-free medication designed to reduce cravings and other symptoms normally associated with nicotine withdrawal. According to David Gonzales, Ph.D., senior research associate at OHSU and principal investigator of the study, bupropion might be more effective than NRT for women because it may better control some of the symptoms particularly common among women when they give up cigarettes, such as depression, anxiety and concern about weight gain.

"Nicotine replacement therapy does work for both men and women, but often not as well for women," said Gonzales. "We've found that bupropion works equally well for women as for men in preventing relapse to smoking." Previous research suggests that the normal taste and smell of cigarettes are part of what makes them pleasurable for women, but not for men. Gonzales speculates that the change in the taste of cigarettes reported by many smokers who take bupropion may be one of a number of factors that contribute to its success with women.

In the smoking cessation study, researchers found women and men were equally likely to quit smoking after seven weeks of bupropion treatment, and also equally likely to stay away from cigarettes after one year of treatment.

"This data may become increasingly important in matching smoking cessation treatment to specific smokers," said Gonzales.

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