A review of Pfizer’s novel pill for smoking cessation Champix has shown that taking the drug trebles the odds for a person successfully quitting the habit, compared with those on placebo.

The review of Champix (varenicline), which is marketed in the USA as Chantix, was undertaken by The Cochrane Collaboration, an international, not-for-profit, independent organisation which evaluates medical research. Its researchers studied data from six Pfizer-sponsored trials that compared the effects of giving people either varenicline or a placebo. 2,473 people took the later and 2,451 people on Champix.

Pooling the data showed that people taking varenicline increased their odds of quitting approximately three-fold for 12 months or longer compared with those on placebo drugs and the researchers added that analysis of some of the trials also revealed that people given Champix increased their chances of quitting more than 1.5 times compared with those given GlaxoSmithKline's rival Zyban (bupropion), an antidepressant sold as Wellbutrin.

A previous Cochrane review showed that Zyban roughly doubles the chance of packing in the cigarettes, as does the second-generation tricyclic antidepressant nortriptyline, but selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as fluoxetine are not effective.

Chantix has a dual approach to helping smokers quit; it blocks the pleasure receptors in the brain associated with cigarette smoking and nicotine, and cuts the level of withdrawal symptoms that often drive a return to the addiction. If a person does smoke while taking Chantix, the drug may block nicotine from binding and lessen its effects.

Lead review author Kate Cahill, who works with the Cochrane Collaboration Tobacco Addiction Group at Oxford University, said that “what we need now are some trials that make direct comparisons between varenicline and nicotine replacement therapy." The researchers added that “additional and independent randomised trials” of Champix are needed to confirm these early findings, as are further trials with bupropion, to establish the relative efficacy of the treatments.

Pfizer started rolling out Champix in the UK in December and has already been accepted by the Scottish Medicines Consortium for use within NHS Scotland’s smoking cessation services.

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