Researchers from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are testing whether the anti-inflammatory properties of nicotine (via a nicotine patch) can treat patients with sarcoidosis.

Current treatments such as steroids often have side effects harsher than the symptoms of the disease itself. “We can’t use the medications for very long before these side effects occur. They can be severe, such as the development of osteoporosis, cataracts, diabetes or high blood pressure and complications related to those,” Crouser said. “We need better, more tolerable options.”

Researchers are now testing nicotine patches, normally used to help people stop smoking, as a potential treatment for sarcoidosis. A small initial study of the patches showed some benefit, and now Crouser is conducting a larger, randomized trial. The Cleveland Clinic is also participating in the study.

“Why nicotine? Around 2000, we learned two things. There was new evidence that nicotine is an anti-inflammatory, and from other studies we discovered smokers were less likely to get sarcoidosis,” Crouser said. “So we’re testing whether nicotine can be a solution. We hope people will actually get a secondary benefit – not only will their lung disease get better, but they’ll feel more energized and have better quality of life.”