Claiming that 1.4 billion people worldwide are addicted to nicotine and more than five million cases result in death each year, the problems of side effects linked to Pfizer’s Champix/Chantix does not detract from the need for smoking cessations products.

That is the basis of a new report from Kalorama Information, which notes that the $3.1 billion smoking cessation market was composed of 36.8% prescription sales and 63.2% OTC drugs in 2007. This compared to 2005 when the former sector accounted for just 12.5% of total sales.

The increase in prescription sales is solely attributed to Chantix (varenicline) which “skyrocketed” that segment from $385 million in 2006 to $1.16 billion last year. However, sales of the Pfizer drug have fallen off of late, and fell 24% in the third quarter to $182 million.

US revenues of the product dropped 49% in the quarter to $96 million, amid reports of adverse events including attempted and completed suicide. Pfizer added a stronger warning on the label.

Kalorama analyst Melissa Elder said that "the overwhelming initial response to Chantix is evidence of an underserved market [and] a strong demand for effective treatments to assist in smoking cessation". However, she notes that “despite consumer demand, the prescription product pipeline is lagging, with no new approval expected before 2011".

The report concludes that only a handful of companies are involved in this market “and even fewer hold significant market positions”. Due to minimal competition and the lack of new product approvals on the horizon, Pfizer “will likely remain the leading competitor”.