Newswise — Piscataway, NJ -- Patients with mental health disorders, particularly schizophrenia, have higher rates of cigarette smoking and more difficulty quitting. Physicians at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School researching effective smoking cessation treatments have found that the drug varenicline is an effective tool at helping schizophrenics quit smoking without causing undue harm. The study was published May 25 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

“Individuals with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder have a greater severity of nicotine dependence and therefore require a more potent treatment plan than the general population,” said Jill M. Williams, associate professor of psychiatry at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and lead investigator of the study. “It is important, however, that treatments for smoking cessation do not cause unnecessary psychosocial concerns or negative reactions with other medications used in the treatment of schizophrenia.”

The study compared smokers, all with diagnosed but clinically stable schizophrenia/ schizoaffective disorder, who were randomized into either a placebo or varenicline-treated group. The study comprised a two-week screening period, 12-week treatment period and a 12-week post-treatment follow-up period. All participants indicated a willingness to quit smoking.

At the end of the 12-week treatment period, 19 percent of participants receiving varenicline had a significantly higher abstinence rate from smoking, compared to 4.7 percent in the placebo-controlled group. At the end of the 24-week trial, participants in the varenicline-treated group continued to show a trend of reduced cigarette use, although at a smaller rate. Most important, the study showed that the varenicline-treated group did not experience any significant changes in schizophrenia symptoms during the trial period.

“Our study shows that varenicline may be an effective and safe smoking cessation treatment for patients with clinically-stable schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder,” said Dr. Williams.

The multi-center trial was conducted with eleven other investigators specializing in mental health disorders in the United States and Canada. The study was funded by Pfizer Inc., which produces varenicline under the brand name Chantix. It can be found online at: (a subscription may be needed). #

About UMDNJ-ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON MEDICAL SCHOOL As one of the nation’s leading comprehensive medical schools, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in education, research, health care delivery, and the promotion of community health. In cooperation with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the medical school’s principal affiliate, they comprise one of the nation's premier academic medical centers. In addition, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School has 34 other hospital affiliates and ambulatory care sites throughout the region.

As one of the eight schools of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey with 2,800 full-time and volunteer faculty, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School encompasses 22 basic science and clinical departments, hosts centers and institutes including The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the Child Health Institute of New Jersey, the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, and the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey. The medical school maintains educational programs at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate levels for more than 1,500 students on its campuses in New Brunswick, Piscataway, and Camden, and provides continuing education courses for health care professionals and community education programs. To learn more about UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, log on to Find us online at and