A New Stop-Smoking Drug is Approved

Last month the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved another treatment to help smokers kick the habit. The drug, called Chantix (varenicline), becomes only the second drug that does not contain nicotine, approved by the FDA for this purpose. The first such anti-smoking drug approved was Zyban (buproprion), a drug that was first approved as antidepressant. In clinical trials 44% of those who Chantix twice daily for 12 weeks were able to stop smoking compared to 30% who quit after taking Zyban for the same length of time. Data presented last year at a meeting of the American Heart Association indicated that abstinence rates after one year were over 20% for those who took Chantix and only 8% for those who took a placebo pill. Chantix reduces the pleasure that is derived from smoking. It also appears to reduce the withdrawal that smoker’s experience. Chantix works on the same receptors in the brain that nicotine also binds to. Apparently, the new drug blocks inhaled nicotine from reaching these receptors. The manufacturer of Chantix hopes to start selling it in the second half of this year.