There are 44 million smokers nationwide and 70% of them want to quit, according to the American Cancer Society. That’s close to 31 million consumers—a huge customer base if the right product comes along.
Of course, there are already prescription drugs such as CHANTIX as well as over-the-counter nicotine patches and gum which aim to help smokers kick the habit.
Cigarettes are addictive because of nicotine, which gives users a mood boost. Specifically, a puff of your favorite tobacco or nicotine gum treat floods the brain with dopamine (the same powerful chemical released during sex, illicit drug use, etc.). Giving up that kind of rush is obviously very difficult for many of us.
As CNN reported, Nabi BioPharmaceuticals recently landed a $10 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse “to take its anti-nicotine vaccine, NicVAX, to Phase III clinical trials.”
Phase III trials involve real humans, and it is the last phase before a drug is taken before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for regulatory approval.
NicVAX supposedly blocks nicotine from ever actually entering the brain. No entry into the brain means no flood of dopamine. And no flood of dopamine means no lift in mood. After a while, a smoker is bound to get bored with smoking a roll of carcinogenic dried herbs that offers no kick in return.
The vaccine is reportedly designed to “stimulate the immune system to generate antibodies that latch on to nicotine in a smoker's body and actually prevent nicotine from ever entering the brain.”
Sounds promising. The bad news? Final results from the Phase III trials aren’t expected until the third quarter of 2011. But if you want to get your hands on a dose of NicVAX before then, try signing up to be a clinical trial participant—the study will need around 1,000 subjects.