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Pfizer's smoking cessation drug approved

Published on 12/05/06 at 01:21pm

Chantix, a new drug which could help smoker's kick their habit and boost Pfizer's sales by billions has been approved in the US.

The drug is the first of a kind treatment for smoking cessation, and works by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms in people trying to quit. This is achieved by the drug partially activating the nicotine receptors - a mechanism which also helps to diminish the reward of smoking, which Pfizer believes could help cut the cycle of nicotine addiction.

"Pfizer's discovery and development of Chantix demonstrates groundbreaking science leading to the first prescription treatment aimed directly at smoking cessation in nearly a decade," said Hank McKinnell, chief executive of Pfizer.

"Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body. It is responsible for approximately one in five deaths in the U.S. and costs the U.S. health care system about $167 billion annually. This medical advance from Pfizer will now help many smokers end their addiction."

The approval is Pfizer's fourth of 2006, and Chantix could add an extra $1.2 billion a year when it reaches peak sales. The company's revenues have suffered over the last 18 months as some of its major brands faced generic competition, safety concerns or growing competition.

Other manufacturers have tried to develop smoking cessation drugs in the past, but existing medications have had shortcomings. GSK's Zyban has limited efficacy and concerns about severe side-effects have meant sales of the product have never taken off.

Pfizer have conducted a head-to-head study between Chantix and Zyban and say patients taking the new drug have nearly double the chance of quitting compared to Zyban, and are around four times more likely to do so than patients taking a placebo.

Chantix will only be available to US patients in conjunction with a support programme designed to help tackle the behavioural components of smoking dependence, which doctors believe is vital to increase a patient's chances of giving up.

Chantix (varenicline) was filed with the EMEA in November 2005 and is expected to gain EU-wide approval within the coming months.


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