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Published on 2 October 2009

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Research rejects smoking drug risks


New research published into the varenicline, a drug used by people wanting to give up smoking, has shown it does not increase the risk of self harm or depression any more than its competitors.

Although it is used widely, concerns had been raised that the drug may increase the risk of suicidal behaviour. It already comes with a warning over its possible side effects.

But researchers from the University of Bristol and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) compared the risks against products containing bupropion and nicotine replacement therapy. These included the patch, gum, tablet, lozenge and an inhaler.

Using data from the General Practice Research Database, 80,660 men and women aged between 18 and 95 years were identified who were prescribed a new course of smoking cessation product between September 2006 and May 2008.

After controlling for confounding factors, there was no clear evidence of an increased risk of self harm, suicidal thoughts or depression associated with either varenicline or bupropion.

The authors caution that although they found no strong evidence of an increased risk of self harm linked to varenicline, “the limited power of the study means we cannot rule out either a halving or a twofold increased risk.

Copyright Press Association 2009

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