US drug giant Pfizer’s novel smoking cessation aid Champix has been
launched in the UK, bringing new hope to thousands of smokers trying to
give up the cigarettes.
Champix (varenicline) is the first non-nicotine medication specifically
designed to help people give up smoking, and works by reducing the
severity of the smoker’s urge to smoke and alleviating many withdrawal
symptoms from nicotine. Moreover, if a person smokes a cigarette while
receiving treatment, the medicine has the potential to diminish the sense
of satisfaction associated with smoking. This dual mode of action sets it
apart from other smoking cessation aids currently on the market, the
European regulators gave the go-ahead for the drug’s introduction in
September, on the back of a clinical trial programme involving around
4,000 heavy, long-term cigarette smokers. In two studies, patients
receiving a 12-week course of varenicline therapy had nearly four times
the odds of quitting versus those taking placebo, as well as nearly twice
the odds of quitting compared to those taking rival smoking cessation
product Zyban (bupropion) SR from GlaxoSmithKline.
Varenicline is already available in the USA, as Chantix, and costs around
$3 a day. In Europe alone, more than 1.2 million people die each year from
smoking-related diseases, and analysts have said the drug could achieve
sales of between $500 million and $1 billion a year at its peak.