New smoking cessation medicines being evaluated: selegiline patch

We’ve recently seen the launch of one new smoking cessation medication – Chantix (also called Champix outside the USA) and so you may be interested to know if there may be new medicines in the pipeline and how these are being evaluated.

One that is currently in clinical trials is a medicine called Selegiline transdermal system (STS) or skin patch. Selegiline is a drug that was developed to help treat Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is at least partly caused by loss of cells in the brain that stimulate activity of the neurotransmitter called dopamine. This neurotransmitter is important for movement and for brain reward or reinforcement functions. Selegiline increases dopamine activity by inhibiting another substance (called MAO-B) that clears dopamine in the brain. By inhibiting MAO-B, selegiline is believed to increase brain dopamine activity. More recently the Selegiline patch was approved by the US FDA as a treatment for depression (marketed as Emsam)

When one considers that nicotine is thought to be addictive partly because it stimulates brain dopamine reward systems, that Parkinson’s disease is one of the few illnesses that is actually less common in smokers, that smokers have a higher frequency of depression, and that depression is a nicotine withdrawal symptom, its not hard to see a rationale for trying Selegiline for smoking cessation. In addition, some preliminary studies with the drug produced some promising results. For example, after 8 weeks of treatment, Professor Tony George and colleagues at Yale University found that 45% of smokers treated with Selegiline had quit, compared with 15% of those treated with placebo.

Now that the more user-friendly skin-patch formulation of the medicine has been used in depression, a clinical trial is underway of the Selegiline patch for smoking cessation. This trial is taking place at a number of sites around the country, including one here in New Brunswick, New Jersey. If you are a New Jersey smoker who wants to quit and are interested in participating in that trial, you can find out more at:

But remember that in addition to experimental treatments, that we already have effective treatments for tobacco addiction, including group, individual and telephone counseling and 7 different medicines approved as safe and effective. So why wait when you can get effective help now?
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About the Author

MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.