Possible Medication Re-Branding for Smokers

Smoking cessation help may come from a drug used to lower cholesterol

April 6, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) A lipid-lowering drug for high cholesterol is given to animals in a pre-clinical trial to see if it will block their central nervous system receptors from absorbing nicotine. Don’t try this at home!

The search for smoking cessation aids has turned to drugs that are already on the market. Research suggests that fibrates might qualify by lowering the response of pleasure receptors to nicotine.

"Ask your doctor about currently available smoking cessation medications."

In a study overseen by Leigh V. Panlilio, Ph.D., a fibrate drug known as clofibrate, was given to rats and squirrel monkeys along with nicotine. The research team wanted to know if the drug could cause the animals to consume less nicotine.

Animals experienced less neurological reward from consuming nicotine after taking clofibrate. Animals that were both new to nicotine exposure and those that were experienced with nicotine absorbed less dopamine released from the nicotine consumption after exposure to clofibrate.

Animals who had been exposed to nicotine, then taken off of nicotine and then offered nicotine again after receiving clofibrate were far less likely to relapse into choosing to consume nicotine again. This could mean that clofibrate prevents nicotine from being absorbed into the pleasure receptors in the brain.

Clofibrate is a drug that is already on the market to treat humans with high cholesterol. Researchers are not completely sure whether fibrate drugs will help people with normal ‘lipid profiles’, or cholesterol levels, or if they will work best on people who already have high cholesterol. Continued research is necessary and approval for use in humans has not been scheduled.

This study was published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, March 28, 2012. Research was funded and conducted by the Intramural Research Program, Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Health, University of Maryland School of Medicine, University of Calgliari, Italy, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Hungarian Academy of Science, Hungary. 

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Review Date: 
April 2, 2012
Last Updated:
April 6, 2012