I was reading an article in the Dec 10 issue of Forbes on the bus coming into work. The article was titled "Tobacco-Free" and related mainly to the recent introduction of Pfizer's drug Chantix into the anti-smoking drug arena.

The article is rather interesting and begins its focus with the inventor, Jothan Coe, and his history with both smoking and chemical solutions to smoking. Apparently the scientist smoked heavily until quitting at 25, when he was a grad student at MIT.

I've never smoked but I work with several people who do--and two of those have tried Chantix without success--and it certainly seems a hard habit to break. The two people in question ran DNA microarrays 2 years ago on smokers versus nonsmokers (from a pool of stent patients) and the results were so dramatic that they both spontaneously quit smoking that very day. The number of genes that were changed by smoking was shocking. Yet the nicotine urge is so strong both took up smoking again within a few weeks--despite the dramatic scientific results showing just how much smoking damage was occurring on a genetic level.

Despite the negative example of my two coworkers, apparently Chanix is a lot more effective than anything else on the market. According to the article in Forbes 45% of the people who take Chantix remain off tobacco after 12 weeks. That compares to 30% of Zyban users. Of course when you go out longer, say 6 months, the numbers for both drugs fall quite a bit. One study had Zyban at only 5% and Chantix at 20%.

But even with low numbers like that Chantix, in the year that it's been out, has grossed over $800 million with an anticipated $1.2 billion in annual sales in the near future. At this point, over 4 million people have taken a $350 3-month course that uses Chantix to quit smoking.

According to the article the basis of the drug is cytisine, a toxic chemical found in coffee trees and a Chinese shrub. Cytisine was identified as having anti-nicotine properties back in 1995 however the chemical was too expensive for development. It cost $1.7 million to process a kilogram (2.2 pounds). Eventually Coe was able to synthesize a bioactive drug, varenicline tartrate, using morphine as a base that would do the same job as cytisine. If nothing else, it looks to be a big financial winner for Pfizer.


Becky68 said…
Michele sent me to check out your information, I don't smoke but my oldest daughter has developed the habit, both my parents smoked & my best friend also smokes. It's all around me & I wish there were better ways for people to stop, (of course, out of all the people I know who smoked or smoke currently, my Father is the only one who ever expressed even a little interest in actually quitting!)
gemma said…
Stopping smoking was the hardest, no make that HARDEST, thing I have ever done, ever, EVER! If only I had more than my white knuckles to get me through. There are so many aids out there and they all seem to be fairly effective - if you really want to that is.

Michele sent me by the's interesting here --glad I stopped by.
craziequeen said…
Hey Dave, Michele sent me this way this evening :-)

[dusts off ticker]
I am so proud of my 1yr, 1mth and 15days.
Every day has hurt, every day has held cravings - even now.

Smoking isn't a habit, it's a curse...

GA Girl said…
Craziequeen - I smoked for 20 years and have been smoke-free for 15 more. It takes years for the cravings to quit, but they will eventually. You are rightfully proud of your success - even heroin addicts say cigarettes are a tougher addiction to quit.
SassyAssy said…
I am grateful that I never picked up that habit.
Smiler said…
I did smoke on and off when I was younger. Which is strange to think of now because I hate smoking with a passion. But I was 'lucky' because after a few weeks or a few months, the nicotine made me sick and I would just drop it. Obviously I didn't have whatever gene it is that makes people addicted to cigarettes. I'm glad for anything that comes out to help people stop that habit. Good post. Michele sent me today.
Teresa said…
My understanding of this drug is that you aren't supposed to just stop smoking, so I assume the cravings are still there for awhile. Most people I know who have tried it really do cut down and even quit while they are on the drug. However, most have also had problems with side effects -- one even went to the emergency room thinking she was having a heart attack.

I imagine that if you can tolerate the drug that success is as high as any other method. I read somewhere that most long time smokers seriously quit an average of 4 times before they remain smoke-free for at least a year. I don't believe there is an easy fix -- it's not an easy thing
Star said…
I quit 25 years ago, the old fashioned way. That is a good wa to find out who your riends really are. A co-worker recently tried Chanix, but couldn't stick with it. She complained of feeling ill and having crazy dreams. She still smokes. Michele sent me.
Michele sent me, Utenzi. How ARE you??? I haven't been by in too long.

Smoking's a complex issue because the ritual of it encompasses so many things -- hands, mouth, lungs... I've never smoked (long story) but for the people who even TRY to quit... my hat's off to them. I know how hard it is to stop snacking all day. I'd imagine smoking is worse.
rennratt said…
I quit smoking - cold turkey - almost 13 years ago. [I had a 3 1/2 pack per day habit.]

To this day, I sometimes imagine knocking a smoker unconscious and stealing their cigarettes.

Two of my co-workers have quit smoking within the past month, with the aid of this medication. My understanding is that for FIVE DAYS, the smoker takes the medication and keeps smoking. I assume it's to allow time for the medicine to get into your system?

One co-worker has been smoke free for six weeks. The other has been smoke free for less than 36 hours. Only time will tell if this works for them!
kenju said…
Michele sent me, Dave. I quit cold turkey many years ago, after smoking for 23 years, at least 2 pks. per day. Back then there were no meds to help - and I think it is best to quit without them, if you can.

It was the hardest thing I have ever done, including having babies, and it is the thing I am proudest of being able to do.
Michele sent me to you this morning, Dave.....I have always heard the quiting smoking was more difficult than getting off Heroin!!

I never quite understand what these drugs are supposed to do to help you stop smoking....! When I quit, there were no drugs back then....And it was very very hard...I am grateful I have NEVER gone back and have been smoke-free for over 37 years....!
This drug sounds a biy scary based in some kind of Morphine thingy...I would wonder about this drug....!
Cold Turkey is really tough, but if one can do it, it seems to be more lasting....!
I really HATE the Drug Company's.....they make a buck wether it works or not, don't they?
ribbiticus said…
hi dave! boy, am i glad i never acquired the taste for nicotine. i've been trying to get a lot of my friends to go cold-turkey. never did think much of those patches and gums. now's a bit scary!
November Rain said…
michelle sent me

I started smoking at 13 and when I quit at 28 I was a chain smoker of 2-3 packs a day

I just quit

but have been tempted because my weight I tried smoking again after quitting for 7 years and black didnt have the taste for it anymore
David said…
look at that! I come here playing a game at Michele's and I learn so much, Thank you Dave.
Anonymous said…
Hey Dave. Michele did not send me... but I'm playing again after months away and thought of you. Glad I did, because this was a great article. Like you, I've never smoked before, but both of my parents did. It took my mom two times to quit, but my dad did, cold turkey, and never looked back. He died of lung cancer ten years later, but who knows how much time quitting bought him? I've never understood how some can quit cold turkey, and others just can't, but it must be like any other thing that can be merely a habit... or an addiction. Even at two packs a day, I think it may have been just a habit for my dad, instead of an addiction. Or I could be completely wrong...

On the drug end of things, now that I'm working with brokerage trades, I think I'll look into Phizer....
craziequeen said…
Hey Dave, back again.. :-)

I had a lung volume test (spyrometry) after a year of abstinence, to check for the first sign of illness. I got 93% lung capacity - more than a lot of non-smokers, my doctor said.

I like that Michele sends me here to see you :-)

Dak-Ind said…
i have been a smoker since i was 17. i quit twice in my life, for pregnancies both times... not only was it healthier for my baby, but while pregnant smoke (anyones, not just my own) made me violently ill... most recently, with Indy, i had quit for 2 1/2 years. i started again nearly a year ago and wish i could quit. i can go a day or two, but thats it. sigh.

michele sent me
Blonde Goddess said…
My mom was able to quit successfully using Chantix.
She is one success story...
tiff said…
I worked on this drug during my time at Pfizer! Love the med, love the goal, love how (generally) safe it is, and love love love the effectivenss.

It also has a slight anti-depreessant effect, which is good for folks who smoke, because the nicotnic receptr gets all blocked up and they don't crave yet aren't too miserable about it.

I even have a coffee cup with the compound number on it. One of my proudest moments was when that thing got approved.
Nina said…
I have smoked enough cigarettes in my life to say that I deserve to be addicted. For whatever reason, I just don't get addicted to things. There must be research out there about people who simply are immune to tobacco addiction, right? I could pick it up, smoke a pack a day for a month and put it right back down without another thought. On the other hand, my dad was addicted at cigarette one when he was thirteen years old and he has never successfully quit. I don't get it.

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