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Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK
No-smoking drug 'better for quitters'
Woman smoking
One in four British women smoke
Women are more likely to give up cigarettes if they take smoking cessation drugs rather than depend on nicotine replacement therapy, research suggests.

A study by doctors at Oregon Health and Science University in the US found women who took the anti-smoking drug bupropion were more successful in kicking the habit.

Bupropion is marketed as the anti-smoking drug Zyban. However, it is also prescribed as an anti-depressant under the name Wellbutrin.


There has been a lot of speculation that Zyban has a good relapse prevention effect

Clive Bates, ASH
The authors believe the anti-depressant features of the drug may particularly benefit women who are more likely to start smoking again than men.

They suggest the drug helps to relieve depression, irritability and other negative feelings which many women say leads them to take up the habit once more.

Dr David Gonzales followed 784 members of a smoking cessation study at five centres in the US.

Follow-up

Each received bupropion at the start of the study. After seven weeks, the researchers assigned 432 of the men and women who had stopped smoking to two groups.

One group continued to take bupropion for the next 45 weeks while the other group switched to a placebo.

The researchers found that both men and women were equally likely to quit smoking after the first seven weeks of medication.

They also had the same success rates after a full year of treatment and again after a two-year follow-up.

This compares with previous studies which, they said, suggested women were more likely to relapse if they had only been taking nicotine replacement therapy, including patches.

Dr Gonzales said the lack of a gender difference was significant because normally women are much more likely than men to relapse.

Writing in the latest issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, he suggested the fact that the drug is reported to change the taste and smell of cigarettes might be a factor.

Women are more likely than men to say they miss the taste and smell of cigarettes after they give up.

But he added that the fact the drug reduces negative feelings, which could include fears over weight gain, probably help women more than men.

'Interesting'

Dr Gonzales said the study - supported by GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturers of bupropion - could help to change the way smokers are given help to give up.

"[It] may become increasingly important in matching medications to smokers," he said.

Clive Bates, director of anti-smoking charity ASH, said the findings were interesting.

"There has been a lot of speculation that Zyban has a good relapse prevention effect."

However, he said scientific evidence did not suggest that women were more likely to fail to kick the habit than men.

"The evidence seems to suggest that cessation rates are the same for men and women."

Speaking to BBC News Online, he added: "On that basis, I would be unsure about the claims they are making."

See also:

19 Apr 02 | Health
Smokers produce more baby girls
11 Apr 02 | Health
Anti-smoking drug given go-ahead
18 May 00 | Health
Depression drug 'boosts libido'
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