Parkinson's Drug May Help Smokers Quit
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A drug used to treat Parkinson's disease may help some people quit smoking, the results of a small, preliminary study suggest.
The drug, selegiline, acts by delaying the breakdown of dopamine, the chemical that progressively diminishes in parts of the brain as Parkinson's disease advances.
"There is increasing evidence for a role of dopamine systems in the neurobiology of nicotine dependence," Dr. Tony P. George and colleagues write in the January issue of the journal Biological Psychology.
In the study, George's team evaluated the number of patients who quit smoking while taking selegiline and assessed any adverse side effects of the drug.
For eight weeks, 20 patients took selegiline and 20 took an inactive placebo. At the end of the eight-week period, 9 of the 20, or 45%, who took selegiline had quit smoking. Six months later, four people were cigarette-free, the study indicates.
By comparison, only 15% of those taking a placebo had stopped smoking by the end of eight weeks. Only one person was cigarette-free at six months, the authors report.
Among those taking selegiline, side effects were "generally mild" and included loss of appetite, gastrointestinal symptoms and insomnia, the authors report.
Given the very small number of people in the study, the authors recommend that further studies be conducted to see if selegiline can indeed help people quit smoking.
"While there are several effective treatments for smoking cessation, including nicotine replacement therapies and bupropion (Zyban), there are many smokers who do not respond to these drugs," said George, who is with the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, in a prepared statement.
"So developing new drugs for smoking cessation is an important undertaking. Selegiline (Deprenyl) appears to be a drug that might have promise for treatment of nicotine addiction," George concluded.
The study was funded by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Cancer Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.