provides general information regarding cytisine

Quit Smoking with Tabex
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When so much time and effort goes into developing the best medical treatments, we expect them to be available when we need them. The same goes for addiction treatments, so it’s worrying that two of the most effective drugs for quitting smoking aren’t available in the UK.

They’re called varenicline and cytisine; members of a family of stop-smoking medicines called “nicotine receptor partial agonists”. They work by stopping nicotine from binding to receptors in the brain and reducing the rewarding effects of smoking while stimulating the brain to reduce nicotine withdrawal and the cravings caused by quitting.

Varenicline (brand names: Champix and Chantix) is an effective drug for treating tobacco addiction and is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines. This means that it is used to address an important health concern and everyone should have access to it.

It’s one of the most effective ways to help people quit smoking, and, until recently, it was only made by one pharmaceutical company: Pfizer.

Cytisine, its less well-known cousin, has been widely used in eastern Europe for over 40 years and is cheaper than varenicline. The problem is, neither of these drugs is available to people in the UK (and a lot of the rest of the world).

Varenicline had been available in the UK on prescription from 2007. It more than doubles the chances of a person quitting smoking. But in 2021, Pfizer halted production because of unacceptably high levels of chemicals called nitrosamines in the pills.

The resulting global shortage is a huge blow to tobacco control efforts and for anyone looking to quit smoking. While some nitrosamines can cause cancer, tobacco smoke contains even higher levels, so any risks from the nitrosamines in varenicline would be outweighed by the huge health benefits of quitting smoking.