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Smoking cessation drug launched

Published on 05/12/06 at 09:52am

Champix, Pfizer's potential blockbuster smoking cessation drug, has been launched in the UK.

This first-in-class treatment is designed to activate the brain's nicotinic receptor to reduce smokers' cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

The launch follows news that the whole of the UK will join the ranks of EU countries to ban smoking in public when England becomes smoke-free on 1 July, 2007.

GP Alex Bobak, a member of Smoking Cessation, London, said: "With smoke-free legislation throughout the whole of the UK fast approaching, the availability of Champix gives smokers an even better chance of stopping smoking."

He added: "There are over 12 million daily smokers in the UK and this new medicine gives NHS Stop Smoking Services and healthcare providers another weapon in their fight against smoking addiction."

Unlike nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, Champix (varenicline tartrate) is non-nicotine based and works by partially stimulating and binding to the receptors that channel the habit-forming properties of nicotine.

In Europe alone, more than 1.2 million people die every year from a smoking related disease and the World Health Organisation has estimated the annual global cost of tobacco-related illness to be around $500 billion.

Analysts expect Champix to achieve peak year sales of more than $1 billion.

GlaxoSmithKline's Zyban (bupropion) was the first non-nicotine based smoking cessation drug to be launched in 2000 - but it failed spectacularly, following worries about serious side effects. It is now off-patent.

However, Champix is still likely to face a number of competitors. GSK has a new smoking cessation drug in phase ll trials and a number of biotech companies, including Cytos and Xenova, are developing nicotine vaccines, which could pose a threat to Pfizer.

Sanofi-Aventis' Acomplia may also be in the running. The drug has received approval for cardiovascular disease and the company is actively looking at its potential in smoking cessation. It is thought the company will submit a licence for this indication in the near future.

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