Varenicline use in patients with mental illness: an update of the evidence.

Importance of the field: Patients with a psychiatric diagnosis have a higher prevalence of smoking compared to the general population. Varenicline is a first-line pharmacotherapy option to assist in smoking cessation. Clinical trials during drug development excluded patients with active psychiatric illnesses leaving the risks associated with varenicline use in this patient population unknown. Areas covered in this review: Literature published in English up to December 2009 were identified and include neuropsychiatric adverse drug events reported in pre-marketing trials and post-marketing surveillance, varenicline case reports, evidence surrounding the use of varenicline in patients with psychiatric diagnoses, and varenicline and suicidality.

What the reader will gain: Although the risk of potential neuropsychiatric events is evident through voluntary reporting systems and reported cases in the literature, multiple studies and case reports support the use of varenicline in the mental health population. Reviewing the literature will enable clinicians to optimize patient care by weighing the risks and benefits associated with varenicline use against the risk of continued smoking.

Take home message: Cautious treatment initiation, patient education, and close follow-up, monitoring for mood and behavior changes during therapy are recommended, especially in the psychiatric setting.