Thursday, November 8, 2007

"In test, nicotine-blocking vaccine helps smokers quit "

from the nj star ledger - by angela stewart

In test, nicotine-blocking vaccine helps smokers quit

An experimental nicotine vaccine that works by zapping the pleasure of cigarette smoking has significantly improved the ability of people to quit, according to the latest data from a study.

The findings presented yesterday to the American Heart Association were based on a trial involving 310 patients who smoked an average of 24 cigarettes (1.2 packs) a day. After five injections of the vaccine over six months, 16 percent of the smokers were able to abstain completely from cigarettes over the next 12 months, versus 6 percent of a group of 100 people who received placebos.

"I believe data from this trial are very encouraging -- for smokers who are trying to quit as well as for the field of smoking-cessation vaccines," said lead investigator Stephen Rennard, a professor of medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The vaccine, called NicVAX and manufactured by Nabi Pharmaceuticals of Boca Raton, Fla., is designed to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies that bind nicotine in the bloodstream, preventing it from entering the brain, which normally produces positive-sensation stimulants as a response to cigarette smoking.

Five injections over six months is considered the optimal dose.

The data presented yesterday at the annual American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Orlando, Fla., seemed to confirm the abstinence trends seen at previous intervals in the study.

Six months after being vaccinated, 24.6 percent of smokers who had a higher level of nicotine-specific antibodies in their bodies reported they had abstained from cigarettes for the previous eight weeks, compared with 13 percent of smokers who had received a placebo.

Ten percent of smokers who had a lower level of nicotine-specific antibodies in their system quit smoking in the same time period.

Some experts in New Jersey questioned whether a vaccine would find acceptance among people looking to quit, considering other smoking-cessation methods have shown to be effective.

"If given the choice of taking a pill, putting on a patch or chewing some gum, it seems like those are an easier way to do it, rather than having to go to your doctor to get an injection," said Jonathan Foulds, a professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey's School of Public Health in New Brunswick.

He added that such a vaccine might be instrumental in preventing people from taking up cigarettes in the first place.

"If someone is at high risk of becoming a smoker, in theory you could vaccinate them so they wouldn't get any effect from smoking," he said.

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