Researchers based in Princeton are hoping to offer smokers a chance to quit with a new pill.
Cigarette sales rose during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — the first increase in 20 years.
Meanwhile, millions in New Jersey continue to smoke. In fact, 10.8% of residents in 2020 were found to be smokers, according to AmericasHealthRankings.org.
For those wanting to quit, options are limited. There’s the gum. The patch. Lozenges. There’s Chantix (varenicline), a drug introduced in the mid-2000s. But besides vaping products, which are not considered a safe alternative, nothing new has offered hope in years.
Researchers based in Princeton are hoping to change that.
They are studying a drug, cytisinicline, currently in a Phase 3 trial, that they think can help daily smokers quit without the depression that usually follows nicotine withdrawal.
The need might be greater than normal after the pandemic changed smoking habits. Some people, feeling stressed or anxious, began smoking or started again, experts say. Others, fearing complications from the coronavirus, quit. And still others continued their usual smoking habits.
“So kind of a mixed bag,” said Dr. Sanjay Varma, of Global Medical Institutes in Princeton, an investigative medical research company.
But for Varma, something else stuck out.
There was a “27% decrease in the number of folks that tried to seek out help to stop smoking because of the pandemic,” he said.
Varma and his team are studying cytisinicline — a plant-based alkaloid that’s “similar in structure to nicotine” that comes in tablet or capsule form. It works by blocking the receptors in the brain that nicotine binds to. But it also aims to do something else: reduce the depressive symptoms that can arise with similar agonist/antagonist drugs.
Spencer Kent – NJ.com – 2022-04-19