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Quick Study

QUICK STUDY : A weekly digest of new research on major health topics

Tuesday, November 16, 2004; Page HE06

smoking cessation

An antidepressant may boost nicotine patch's effectiveness.

THE QUESTION Most people find it hard to stop smoking. Wearing a nicotine patch helps many people break the habit, but it does not work for everyone. Would combining an antidepressant with the patch be more effective?

THIS STUDY randomly assigned 158 adults who smoked at least 10 cigarettes a day to wear a nicotine patch for eight weeks. Half the group also took the antidepressant nortriptyline daily, starting two weeks before their quit date and continuing for 12 weeks; the others took a placebo on the same schedule. After six months, 23 percent of those who took the antidepressant and wore the patch had stopped smoking, compared with 10 percent of those who only wore the patch. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms were similar for both groups.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED BY THESE FINDINGS? People who want to quit smoking, especially those who already tried to quit with a nicotine patch but were unsuccessful.

CAVEATS Those who took nortriptyline reported more side effects than the placebo group, with 38 percent having dry mouth (vs. 8 percent) and 20 percent feeling drowsy (vs. 3 percent). The study did not assess the effect of combination treatment on people with depression.

BOTTOM LINE Smokers who did not succeed in quitting with the help of a nicotine patch may want to ask a doctor about combining the patch with nortriptyline.

FIND THIS STUDY Nov. 8 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine; abstract available online at www.archinternmed.com.

LEARN MORE ABOUT smoking cessation at www.smokefree.govand www.familydoctor.org.

Hay fever

Acupuncture seems to reduce allergic symptoms temporarily.

THE QUESTION Traditional Chinese medicine often uses acupuncture to treat inflamed nasal passages. Does it hold up as an effective treatment for allergic rhinitis, or hay fever?

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