Despite several safe drug therapies available to help smokers quit, three-quarters report relapsing within six months of a quit attempt. University of Pennsylvania researchers Rebecca Ashare and Heath Schmidt saw potential for a permanent cessation solution in a class of FDA-approved medications used to improve cognitive impairments from Alzheimer's disease.
In a study consisting of a rat trial and a human trial, Ashare and Schmidt studied the effects of two acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, or AChEIs, called galantamine and donepezil on overall nicotine intake. The rat component showed that pretreating the rodents with an AChEI decreased their nicotine consumption. Consistent with these effects, clinical trial participants taking the AChEI, not the placebo, smoked 2.3 fewer cigarettes daily, a 12 percent decrease, and noted feeling less satisfied with the cigarettes they did smoke.
(Galantamine ) (Donepezil)
"We're very interested in screening potential efficacy of anti-addiction medications in our models," said Schmidt, a professor in Penn's School of Nursing and Perelman School of Medicine. "For this study, we looked at potential smoking-cessation medications."
The research itself took a translational approach, what Ashare, a professor in Penn Medicine's psychiatry department, calls bi-directional. In other words, the preclinical data informed the clinical study and vice versa.
At Penn's Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Nicotine Addiction, work on smoking cessation has been ongoing since 2001. Specifically, research from Caryn Lerman, CIRNA's director and the Mary W. Calkins Professor in Psychiatry, concluded that ...