Pfizer said today that the European Commission has approved Champix, a novel pill for smoking cessation in adults.

The drugmaker said Champix (varenicline) 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.

In Europe alone, more than 1.2 million people die each year from smoking-related diseases.

Approval was based on 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 comapred 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. Analysts have said the drug could achieve sales of between $500 million and $1 billion a year at its peak.