The Nicotine vaccine is a much anticipated stop smoking shot which holds the
promise of a quick fix to a smoker's habit. But, is it really the "Holy Grail" of smoking
cessation? The researchers at Nabi Biopharmaceuticals report some positive
results so far. Currently, the vaccine has just finished clinical phase III trials.
The shot works like any vaccine, by attacking the intruder entity, in this case,
nicotine. They stimulate the immune system's production of antibodies which then
attach to the nicotine molecules, making them too large to cross the blood-brain
With the intruder effectively neutralized, the euphoric rush found with addiction never
materializes. In addition, there is also a secondary result, which also helps the
smoker lay down those cigarettes for good. The antibodies from the vaccination stay
active in the body for the next couple of months. This latent effect helps prevent the
smoker from relapse, which is so prevalent in the first several months of cessation.
This gives the treatment an effective 1-2 punch.
In phase I and II trials, the reported smoking cessation rates were quite favorable,
somewhere around 13-16%. Much better than most traditional stop smoking aids
currently available on the market today.
In addition, the safety profile of the vaccination seems to be very benign. There did
not appear to be any of the associated psychotic side-effects, as is found with other
stop smoking aids like Chantix or Zyban - both of which, are required by the FDA to
carry Black Box warnings.
This seemed to be a promising tool in the battle for smoking cessation. So, will
people be lining the streets to get their stop smoking shot?
Nicotine Vaccine Update
Good question. Clinical phase III trials were completed in Nov. 2011 with
disappointing results. The drug (NicVAX) did not show any statistically significant
benefit over placebo. Nabi Pharmaceuticals sees this as an obvious set back. This
vaccine still has one more ongoing clinical study in the Netherlands, but in
combination with varenicline (Chantix). The results of this study should be made
available in 2012 and could determine the future of this particular option.
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