Thursday, December 24, 2009

Chantix to see Competition from New Anti-Smoking Vaccine

Washington, DC: It's all over the television now—ads for Chantix that depict a smiling, real-life Chantix user going about her everyday business without a cigarette between her fingers, while the announcer rattles off a warning about potential Chantix side effects, including suicide and aggression. Chantix side effects, for some, can be nasty.

And now a new vaccine that works in similar fashion to Chantix may be coming to a family doctor or pharmacy near you.

Many companies over the years have experimented with vaccines that do what essentially Chantix does—block neuron receptors in the brain that react to nicotine, producing the dopamine that's largely responsible for the pleasure that comes from smoking.

Now a company in Rockville, Maryland has announced the testing of an experimental vaccine. Nabi Biopharmaceuticals is in the midst of Phase 3 trials of what it calls NicVax, which shares a common modus operandi with Pfizer's Chantix. What’s more, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has entered into an agreement in principle with Nabi to undertake the cost and marketing of the new vaccine.

NicVax causes the immune system to create antibodies that bond with the nicotine molecule if it enters the bloodstream. The result is a molecule too large to pass along to the brain, essentially making the body immune to nicotine.

If smokers can't get a buzz from lighting up a cigarette, the thinking goes, there's no reason for them to continue the habit. Antibodies created by NicVax are thought to stay in the body for long periods, lowering the chances that a smoker will quickly return to the habit.

The Washington Post reported earlier this month that Nabi will realize a financial windfall from GSK, provided that Nabi completes Phase 3 testing sometime in 2011.

Under the terms of the agreement with GSK, Nabi will reap $40 million for the exclusive worldwide licensing of NicVax. GSK could wind up paying Nabi as much as $500 million if Nabi meets a number of developmental and marketing milestones in the coming years. That figure does not include royalties Nabi would earn if NicVax makes it to market.

Analysts predict there is still a vast amount of money to be made from the smoking cessation market. Chantix, on the market for three years, is already worth a reported $800 million in sales to Pfizer, in spite of a spate of negative publicity.

While smokers have declined steadily over the past few decades, the trend has flattened in recent years: 20.9 percent of Americans counted themselves as smokers in 2004, compared with 20.6 percent in 2008.

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