Cytisine offers an alternative to the smoking cessation drug varenicline, with fewer side effects, according to a new study. Photo courtesy of Max Pixel/Pixabay
July 6 (UPI) -- The plant-based drug cytisine offers an effective alternative for smokers trying to quit who experience troubling side effects with other smoking cessation treatments, a study published Tuesday by JAMA found.
Nearly 12% of those who used the drug, marketed as Tabex and as part of other smoking cessation products, for a 25-day treatment period were not smoking six months later, the data showed.
Although more than 70% of those taking cytisine reported side effects related to treatment -- including sleep disturbances and "abnormal" dreams -- the majority of them were mild.
"Our study findings add to the evidence that cytisine is an effective smoking cessation aid," study co-author Ryan Courtney told UPI in an email.
The trial "found that, overall, cytisine was associated with significantly fewer adverse events compared [with] varenicline," which is marketed as Chantix, said Courtney, a senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
Just under 11% of the smokers who used cystisine reported experiencing nausea as a result of treatment, compared with more than 27% of those on varenicline, the data showed.
"Nausea is often a key reason cited for smokers discontinuing [smoking cessation] treatment," Courtney said.
About 17% of the participants in the cystisine group reported stopping treatment due to side effects, while more than one in three of those in the varenicline group did so, according to Courtney and his colleagues.
However, a higher percentage of those in the varenicline group -- 13% -- stopped smoking and remained smoke-free for six months, the data showed.
"Whilst this study did not show that cytisine was equally as good as varenicline, there is already extensive evidence that cytisine can help people quit smoking," Courtney said.
"Cytisine is a low-cost, well-tolerated and effective smoking cessation aid that ... has the potential to make tobacco treatment accessible, affordable and cost-effective [and it] is also derived from a natural plant extract, which may appeal to some people," he said.