A new smoking pill gives hope to smokers trying to quit as trial shows a third quit after just two months
- The drug cytisiniline, made from trees in East Asia, can help a third of smokers quit
A drug made from trees in East Asia can help a third of smokers quit after just two months, according to a new trial.
Cytisiniline, one tablet daily, was found to keep smokers away from cigarettes for at least five and a half months. If approved, the drug would be the only smoking cessation drug currently available in the UK.
The results come amid concerns about the safety of one of the most popular smoking cessation aids, e-cigarettes. Last week the Local Government Association, which represents all local councils, called for a ban on disposable vapes, saying they are harmful to young people and cannot be recycled.
Around 6.6 million Britons are smokers, around one in ten. In 2019, the government announced plans to make Britain smoke-free by 2030, but experts say the UK is unlikely to meet the target, partly due to a lack of effective smoking cessation treatments.
Cytisiniline has been used in Eastern European countries as a smoking cessation aid since the 1980s. It is made from Golden Rain trees, a flowering plant native to East Asia. It interferes with receptor cells in the brain that respond to nicotine, reducing cravings and aiding withdrawal.
A drug made from trees in East Asia can help a third of smokers quit after just two months, according to a new trial (file photo)
The new study, conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital Tobacco Research and Treatment Center, tested the drug in 810 smokers who wanted to quit and compared their results to a group given a dummy pill and counseling. The volunteers took one 3 mg tablet three times a day. One group took the pill for six weeks, while another took it for 12. One in four in the six-week program quit smoking completely, compared with around one in 20 in the placebo group.
In the 12-week program, a third dropped out, compared to less than one in 10 on placebo. After almost three months, one fifth were still non-smokers. Mild side effects, such as nausea, abnormal dreams, and insomnia, occurred in one in ten volunteers taking the drug.
Darush Attah-Zadeh, a respiratory pharmacist at the North West London Integrated Care Board, told the Pharmaceutical Journal: “It has the potential to become the first new agent approved in almost two decades and an important treatment option to treat tobacco dependence.”