Quitting with the Nicotine Vaccination

smokingWould any of you smokers be interested in a nicotine vaccine in order to help you quit? That is what researchers in Philadelphia, PA wanted to know. But wait, did I just type ‘nicotine vaccine’? Well, yes I did. Nabi Biopharmaceuticals has been working on this for a fair few years now, with clinical trials on-going. The drug is called NicVAX, which is 3-aminomethylnicotine that has been bonded to a bacterial carrier. This complex is able to stimulate the same anti-body response that nicotine would, only it is too big to cross the blood-brain barrier itself. This means it does not provoke the reward pathway like nicotine, thereby making cigarettes appear less appealing.

Clinical trials have been most successful in rats, but let’s face it; they can’t exactly sneak out of their cages to light-up if they feel like it. Some leg-work from the smoker is obviously required in their endeavor to quit. A study conducted five years ago in actual smokers (i.e. human data) concluded that the vaccination is safe and well tolerated and also described the drug as “promising medication for tobacco dependence.” Now, please excuse my cynicism here, but I don’t find the results all too fantastic. You may not share the same sentiment, but out of sixty-eight smokers involved in the study, eight who received the treatment managed to quit. Ironically, two from the placebo group also managed to quit. There may be many reasons for this, and I’m guessing the main reason being that most of the participants got involved for the money and never really had the intentions to quit. But like I said above, please excuse my cynicism. One positive note from the study, however, is that there was no compensatory smoking from those receiving the drug. In other words, since the drug prevents nicotine reaching the brain, you may expect the smokers to smoke more in order to try and compensate. As it turns out, they didn’t.

There does appear to be some interest in this method of quitting if the most recent study is anything to go by. The researchers asked over four-hundred smokers if they would be interested in a vaccination and over half stated that they would. Due to the expense of being a smoker, and the widespread knowledge of the negative health implications of smoking, this can hardly be a surprise. The real surprise will be if the smokers can muster the discipline required in order to stay off cigarettes for good.

Source: Leader AE, Lerman C, Cappella JN. Nicotine vaccines: Will smokers take a shot at quitting? Nicotine Tob Res. 2010 Apr;12(4):390-7.

About the Author

Matt Cahill has worked extensively in the nutritional supplement field, and is the former CEO of Designer Supplements. During his time in the field has researched and developed prohormones, testosterone boosters, and other related compounds, both for his own company and others.