|Type of medicine||Smoking cessation aid|
|Used for||Helping people to stop smoking|
Nicotine is a drug that is inhaled from the tobacco in cigarettes. It gets into the bloodstream and stimulates the brain. Most regular smokers are addicted to nicotine. Even though you want to quit smoking, it can be difficult to succeed, because nicotine addiction is strong and hard to break. This is where varenicline can help.
Varenicline mimics the effect of nicotine on the body. This both reduces the urge to smoke and relieves withdrawal symptoms. It also partially blocks or blunts the effect of nicotine in people who give in to temptation and have a cigarette.
Varenicline does not make you stop smoking. You still need determination to succeed and to break the smoking habit. A combination of varenicline with counselling from a nurse, doctor, pharmacist, or other health professional is likely to increase your chance of successfully stopping smoking. Therefore, most doctors will only prescribe varenicline to people who really want to stop smoking as part of a stopping smoking programme.
Before taking varenicline
Before taking varenicline make sure your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you are under 18 years of age.
- If you have ever had a mental health problem such as depression.
- If you have ever had heart or blood vessel problems.
- If you have kidney problems.
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
- If you are taking other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or to any other medicine.
How to take varenicline
- Before starting this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack.
- Take varenicline exactly as your doctor has told you.
- Start taking the tablets one week before your quit date. The aim is to build up the dose so your body gets used to the varenicline before the quit date. The usual advice is to start with one white tablet (500 micrograms) daily for the first three days. Then one white tablet (500 micrograms) twice daily on days four to seven. Then, one blue tablet (1 mg) twice daily for 11 weeks.
- You can take varenicline tablets before or after meals.
- Try to take varenicline at the same time(s) each day to avoid missing any doses.
- If you do forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
- Varenicline may affect your concentration and cause you to feel dizzy. If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines.
- The usual course of treatment is for 12 weeks (although in some cases an additional 12 weeks of treatment may be advised). After this time, your doctor may suggest you reduce your dose over a week or so. This is because at the end of treatment if varenicline is stopped suddenly there may be problems, such as an urge to smoke, depression, and/or sleeping difficulties, for a short time. These problems can be eased by a gradual reduction of your dose.
- Varenicline will help you to give up smoking, but you still need determination to succeed and to break the smoking habit. If you are still smoking after 12 weeks, discuss this with your doctor.
- Speak with your doctor for advice about taking varenicline and alcohol. You may be advised not to drink alcohol while you are being treated with varenicline.
- If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with varenicline.
- This medicine is for you. Never give it to others, even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
Can varenicline cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.
|Common varenicline side-effects - these affect around 1 in 10 people who take this medicine||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Headache||Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller|
|Feeling or being sick, stomach ache, indigestion, diarrhoea||Keep to simple foods, and eat smaller meals but more regularly|
|Feeling sleepy, weak, or dizzy||If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines|
|Difficulty sleeping, nightmares||Avoid taking your last dose near bedtime|
|Dry mouth||Try chewing sugar-free gum or sucking sugar-free sweets|
|Increased appetite, changes in the way things taste, constipation||If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor|
Important: if you become agitated, feel depressed or start having thoughts about harming yourself, let your doctor know straightaway. Depression may occur rarely as a side-effect of treatment with varenicline or it may occur as a symptom of nicotine withdrawal.
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
How to store varenicline
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
Further reading & references
- British National Formulary; 62nd Edition (Sep 2011) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
- Manufacturer's PIL, Champix® 0.5 mg film-coated tablets; Champix® 1 mg film-coated tablets,; Manufacturer's PIL, Champix® 0.5 mg film-coated tablets; Champix® 1 mg film-coated tablets, Pfizer Limited, electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated November 2011.
|Original Author: Helen Allen||Current Version: Helen Allen||Peer Reviewer: Dr Helen Huins|
|Last Checked: 19/01/2012||Document ID: 13819 Version: 1||© EMIS|
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.