The data showed that varenicline was highly associated with inducing nausea among patients, but not suicide events, depression, or aggression. Current or past psychiatric illness increased the risk of neuropsychiatric events equally among the varenicline and placebo groups. In the drug-comparison studies, the rate of neuropsychiatric events in the varenicline cohort was significantly less than in those receiving nicotine-replacement therapy. Overall, varenicline was more successful in achieving smoking abstinence than placebo or nicotine-replacement therapy.
J. John Mann, M.D., study author and vice chair for research in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia, told Psychiatric News that, “Patients report side effects. Often they are real and important.... Sometimes the side effects or adverse effects reported are due a change in the illness or in this case due to nicotine withdrawal or the loss of the cognitive enhancing effects of nicotine…. Some reports are due to the patient being alert to the possibility [of a side effect] and [thus] more likely to report its occurrence, and sometimes the person feels they have the complication but objective examination fails to confirm this.”
The study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. Pfizer provided no financial support.
For information on research into varenicline, see the Psychiatric News article "Varenicline Shows Promise as Alcohol Abuse Treatment." For a report on nicotine-vaccine research, see the article "Nicotine Vaccine's Effect on Brain Evaluated."
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