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Pitt Study Tests New Smoking Cessation Drug

Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2015

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 10, 2015 – Investigators at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC are testing a novel compound, originally developed to prevent decline in cognitive function, to determine if it can help people quit smoking.

Withdrawal symptoms include difficulty in concentrating and short-term memory problems, said Kenneth A. Perkins, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, epidemiology and psychology at Pitt and principal investigator of the study. These cognitive difficulties and other symptoms often lead to relapse in the vast majority of smokers who try to quit.

The experimental compound, developed by Janssen Inc. and known as JNJ, acts at specific nicotine receptors in the brain involved in cognitive function, and researchers will assess whether limiting decline in cognitive problems may decrease motivation for tobacco and lessen the withdrawal symptoms, making it easier to quit altogether.

Study participants will try to quit briefly during each of two week-long periods, in which they receive JNJ during one and placebo during the other. The difference in their ability to quit will be compared between the JNJ and placebo periods

“Many smokers desperately want to quit, but often have a hard time with loss of concentration, focus and short-term memory,” said Dr. Perkins. “This compound is different than other cessation drugs and we are excited to see if it can aid more smokers to quit successfully.”

All participants will be offered counseling and the FDA-approved cessation medication bupropion (Zyban) at no cost to help them permanently quit once they have completed study testing. They also will be compensated for attending study visits.  Smokers already planning to quit soon can find out more information by calling 412-246-5306 or visiting

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