Brief procedures for evaluating medication efficacy may reveal which candidate drugs warrant further testing in clinical trials and which do not. We previously carried out a study of smoking abstinence, involving the nicotine patch, and established the sensitivity of our procedure. In this study, we sought to cross-validate our earlier work by comparing short-term smoking abstinence due to varenicline (relative to placebo) in smokers with high intrinsic quit interest (n = 57) and those with low intrinsic quit interest (n = 67). All the subjects were randomly assigned to either abstinence reinforcement ($12/day) or no reinforcement. In a crossover design, all the subjects participated in two 3-week phases: ad libitum smoking (week 1), dose run-up of varenicline (1.0 mg b.i.d.) or placebo (week 2), and quit attempt on medication verified daily by carbon monoxide <5 ppm (week 3). As with the nicotine patch in the previous study, varenicline (relative to placebo) increased abstinence more effectively in those with high intrinsic quit interest than in those with low quit interest but did not affect abstinence due to reinforcement. These data confirm the feasibility of a brief, sensitive test of the efficacy of cessation medications in smokers with high quit interest.
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