Smoking Varenicline helps people with HIV stop smoking, but success rate remains low

Published: March 4, 2015

Liz Highleyman
Original Article:

The smoking cessation drug varenicline (Champix, or Chantix in the United States) helped more people with HIV to stop smoking than counselling alone, but less than 20% were able to remain abstinent for a year, according to the results of a French study presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2015) last week in Seattle, USA. The smoking cessation rates in this study were comparable to those previously seen for HIV-negative people using varenicline or other methods – across the board only a minority manage to quit long-term.

Studies have shown that a large proportion of people with HIV smoke tobacco – higher than comparable HIV-negative groups of the same sex and age. In Europe, it is estimated that at least half of people living with HIV are smokers. It is well known that smoking contributes to a host of health problems ranging from cardiovascular disease to cancer. Since people with HIV appear to be at greater risk for some of these conditions already, smoking cessation takes on added importance.

Patrick Mercie from Hôpital Saint-André in Bordeaux presented findings from ANRS 144 Inter-ACTIV, a study comparing smoking cessation rates after a year for people treated with varenicline or placebo. The study, sponsored by the French national HIV and hepatitis research agency, was conducted at 30 ANRS clinical centres between October 2009 and January 2014.

Pfizer’s varenicline is a partial nicotinic receptor agonist that helps reduces craving for nicotine and dampens the pleasurable feelings associated with smoking. It was approved in the US and European Union in 2006.

This phase 3 study enrolled 248 smokers living with HIV who were motivated to quit; 213 started therapy and were included in the final analysis. They smoked at least 10 cigarettes per day (median 20 per/day), had been smokers for around 25 years on average and more than 80% had previously tried to quit at least once.

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