Pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic modeling of the effect of varenicline on nicotine craving in adult smokers

Patanjali Ravva, Marc R. Gastonguay, Hélène M. Faessel, Theodore C. Lee, Raymond Niaura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Varenicline has been shown to significantly reduce craving and several aspects of smoking reinforcement in clinical trials, compared with placebo. This is the first report describing the concentration-effect relationship of varenicline on relief of craving. Methods: The pharmacokinetics (PK) and pharmacodynamics (PD) of a single 2 mg dose of varenicline were investigated in 40 smokers in a randomized, crossover study comparing the effect of varenicline with placebo on ameliorating abstinence-and cue-induced craving and withdrawal symptoms. Subjects were asked to complete self-reported questionnaires (Smoking Urges Scale and Minnesota Nicotine Withdrawal Scale [MNWS]) and blood samples were simultaneously collected for measurement of varenicline concentrations. Only the data from the 4-hr postdose abstinence period (just prior to the cue session) were analyzed. Data were described by a 2-compartment PK model and a linear PD model with first-order onset/offset rate constants describing the placebo response "kinetics." Response was described as the net effect of the baseline, placebo, and drug responses. Results: Varenicline significantly decreased mean craving score when compared with placebo and the magnitude of this response was related to varenicline concentration. The time-course and magnitude of both placebo and varenicline craving response were characterized by a large degree of unexplained variability. Simulations were used to illustrate the expected craving response over time and its associated random variability after chronic dosing. Conclusions: Craving reduction is associated with increased varenicline concentrations. The relatively rapid onset of this effect within 4 hr postdose suggests that, smokers may experience some craving relief after acute administration of varenicline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-113
Number of pages8
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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