NEW ORLEANS - New evidence on a method to quit smoking is coming out of a worldwide study, and local smokers can still join in the free clinical trial as doctors collect more medical evidence.
For years, doctors in 19 countries have been studying 8,000 smokers to find the best treatment for the brain's powerful addiction to nicotine. As many as 145 of those smokers were here in Southeast Louisiana and joined the branch of the study in Metairie.
"My sense of taste, my sense of smell is absolutely incredible. Other than that, I don't get as winded walking and stuff," said Casandra Spiers back in 2012. She joined the study and became smoke free.
With free medical exams and counseling and a variety of medications and patches, all but seven, in the local branch of the clinical trial, have quit or are down to only a few cigarettes a day.
And now preliminary findings are coming out.
"The results are very clear that Chantix is effective in smoking cessation. It is more effective than placebo, in other words, cold turkey, doing it on your own. It's also more effective than other medications that are on the market," explained Dr. Eileen Palace, the Metairie study director.
Forty-four percent of smokers on Chantix are smoke free in 12 weeks, and remain so a year later.
But something else is emerging from this current clinical trial. Smokers who see Chantix commercials are scared of the reported serious behavioral side effects that are listed. But Dr. Palace says those are not based on studies, just singular reports that may not have been related to the medication. Now there's new evidence that it is safe and effective in people who have had emotional, or psychiatric health conditions.
"That includes anything from a mild depression to a panic attack to post traumatic stress. And who in New Orleans hasn't experienced one of those things," said Dr. Palace.
Doctors say treatment to quit smoking is especially needed in this patient population.
"People who do have any history of mental disorders, they use smoking as a coping mechanism. And they're more likely to smoke. They're more likely to smoke more and they're more likely to do it for a longer period of time and have more difficulty of giving it up," said Dr. Palace.
And because of the addiction, treatment usually beats cold turkey.
The quit smoking study is still open for smokers 18 to 72 years old. Smokers are followed for a year or more.
Exams, behavior counseling and medications are free. Everyone will get the behavior modification, but the different medications and nicotine patches will be divided up randomly with no one knowing who gets what until after the study is over. To see if you qualify call 504-834-4500 for more. The study is being conducted in the office of the Center for Sexual Health, 3500 N. Causeway Blvd. in Metairie.