NORFOLK, Va. – As cases of the more contagious COVID-19 variants continue to multiply across the country, smokers may be more encouraged than ever to kick the habit.
Dr. William Smith said smokers are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
“People with severe lung disease, which is one of the side effects of smoking, are at more risk for COVID,” he said.
Fewer than one in 10 adult smokers successfully quit each year.
A new pill under research could help more people put down the cigarettes for good. The naturally derived drug is called cytisinicline.
“It builds up levels and has had a chance to have some effect on saturating the nicotine receptors, so they don’t have as much urge to smoke,” Smith said.
A clinical trial called ORCA-2 is underway at AMR Norfolk and 15 other Alliance for Multispecialty Research (AMR) locations across the country. Researchers are testing how safe and effective cytisinicline is.
Dr. Smith is the CEO of the AMR centers in Knoxville, Tenn., and New Orleans, La. He’s leading the same clinical trial in Knoxville.
The medication is being compared to Chantix, another therapy to help smokers quit.
“It appeared to be equally as effective but had much fewer side effects, with the major side effects being headache, funny dreams and insomnia – side effects that are also seen with Chantix but much less frequently with the study drug,” said Smith.
AMR Norfolk, formerly known as Clinical Research Associates of Tidewater, is looking for 50 participants who are willing to quit smoking within seven days of starting the trial. They would take the pill three times a day for 24 weeks and have to be motivated to quit.
“We are looking for people over the age of 18 and older that are regular smokers and want to quit,” Smith said. “They can’t currently be taking any medicine to stop smoking. They also will undergo smoking counseling at the research site. They’ll have 19 visits over the course of the study, so it’s fairly intensive.”
The study is expected to last several months. Participants will be compensated for their time and travel.
Those interested in taking part in the study can call 757-627-7446.