Smokers wanted: Campus program studies ways to 'kick the habit'

By Nicole Nielsen
Arizona Summer Wildcat
June 12, 1996

If you are finally ready to quit what the now-infamous commercials call the "smelly, puking habit," it could be as easy as joining one of the University of Arizona's free smoking cessation studies.

The Arizona Program for Nicotine and Tobacco Research is currently recruiting about 200 smokers to participate in one of their two smoking cessation research studies.

The studies are designed to test the effectiveness of medication that may be used to help people quit smoking. Because the studies are scientific, some participants may unknowingly not receive medication.

But even patients who are unmedicated have better chances of quitting than those who do not participate, said Louise Strayer, clinic coordinator for the program.

"We focus on psychosocial therapy and counseling intervention to make it a qualitative experience for all participants," Strayer said. "Certainly, the drugs make a big difference in the pain and process of quitting."

One of the studies involves the use of a smoker's patch, Strayer said. She said it is designed to determine the effect of different drug combinations that are already commercially available to help smokers quit.

Strayer said all participants receive a patch with a different dose of the drug or a patch with no dose at all.

The study is double-blind, Strayer said. This means neither the participants nor the investigators know what dose a participant has received, and results are interpreted by the sponsoring pharmaceutical company.

Many of the studies at the Arizona Program for Nicotine and Tobacco Research are sponsored by pharmaceutical companies that need to test products. The companies pay for the research and own the data and any publication rights.

"Anecdotally, we may know the outcome, but because we are blinded, we cannot say for sure," Strayer said.

She said pharmaceutical companies use the university for the status and level of research it can give them.

"We are paid for running a certain number of participants," said Scott Leischow, director of the program.

Glaxo Wellcome, a pharmaceutical company that has worked with the program, recently sponsored a project that when complete will have cost $438,000. The program receives money for each participant as it enrolls.

"We will have received the total amount at the end of the study," Leischow said.

The program is currently funded by the National Institute of Health, Arizona Department of Health Services, and pharmaceutical companies Glaxo Wellcome, SANO Corp. and DynaGen Inc.

All smokers wanting to quit can contact the program at 621-9907.

Strayer said, "If for any reason a person does not qualify for a study, we keep their name for possible participation in a later study, and we can refer them to other programs that may help."