Study: Smoking Cessation Drug Not Linked to Heart Attack, Depression

Varenicline, a highly effective drug that aids smoking cessation, is not associated with increased risk of cardiovascular events or depression as previously believed, according to a recent study.

In the past, health care providers limited varenicline use due to concerns about increased risks for adverse neuropsychiatric and cardiovascular events.

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For the study, investigators followed 106,759 who received nicotine replacement treatment (NRT), 6557 that were administered bupropion, and 51,450 who took took varenicline for 6 months to compare instances of ischemic heart disease, heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, cardiac arrhythmia, and cerebral infarction, and depression and self-harm using Cox proportional hazards.

Researchers discovered that both varenicline and bupropion did not yield heightened risks of neuropsychiatric or cardiovascular events compared to NRT.

Further, varenicline was linked to a significantly decreased risk of ischemic heart disease (Hazard Ratio: 0.80), heart failure (0.61), depression (0.66), cerebral infarction (0.62), arrhythmia (0.73), and self-harm (0.56).

“These findings suggest an opportunity for physicians to prescribe varenicline more broadly, even for patients with comorbidities, thereby helping more smokers to quit successfully than do at present,” they concluded.

The complete study is published in the September issue of the Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

-Michelle Canales Butcher


Kotz D, Viechtbauer W, Simpson C, et al. Cardiovascular and neuropsychiatric risks of varenicline: a retrospective cohort study. Lancet Resp Med. 2015 September [epub ahead of print] doi: