June 22, 2018
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The $6 way to quit smoking

By Marthe Fourcade, Bloomberg News

For as little as $6, there may be a smoking-cessation remedy that actually works.

A clinical test of Tabex, sold in Eastern Europe for more than four decades, shows that the plant-based medicine can triple smokers’ chances of quitting compared with a dummy pill. The results of a study on 740 people were published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The tablet, developed and sold by Bulgaria’s Sopharma, may help smokers with limited means quit, scientists said. Most of the 6 million people who die from tobacco use each year are from low- and middle-income countries, according to the World Health Organization.

“The benefits of Tabex are comparable with those of other smoking-cessation treatments, but at a fraction of the cost,” Robert West of University College London’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, who led the research team, said in a statement.

“Stopping smoking can be extremely difficult,” West said, and the study’s results suggest Tabex could become “a practical option even for the poorest smokers.”

In India, where 20 cigarettes cost about $1.10, a course of nicotine-replacement therapy costs about $150 and smoking-cessation drugs as much as $200, West and his colleagues wrote.

In the study, 8.4 percent of patients taking Tabex for 25 days with “minimal” counseling abstained from smoking for a year, compared with 2.4 percent of those given a placebo. The smokers who took the plant-based remedy reported more gastrointestinal upset, the research shows.

Tabex tablets contain cytisine, a substance found in the seeds of a tree called laburnum that produces yellow pea-flowers, which mimics the effect of nicotine.

Pfizer’s Chantix, a smoking-cessation drug available in the U.S. and Europe on prescription, is also derived from cytisine. One week’s worth of tablets for a patient taking three a day costs about $63 on the website drugstore.com.

A course of Tabex, which was first sold in Bulgaria in 1964, costs about $15 in Poland and $6 in Russia, where it is sold over the counter, the study’s authors wrote.

The absolute difference in rates of tobacco abstinence between the two patient groups in the Tabex study was lower than for Chantix and similar to what has been found for nicotine-replacement therapy, the scientists wrote. University College London’s Cancer Research U.K. Health Behaviour Research Centre and the Cancer Center and Institute of Oncology in Warsaw conducted the research.

Extab has licensed global rights to Tabex and is conducting clinical trials designed to meet the standards of Western regulators, the Delaware-incorporated company said on its website. Extab is run by Sopharma Chief Executive Officer Ognian Donev; Rick Stewart, former CEO of Amarin, and Anthony Clarke, a researcher with a focus on neurology, psychiatry and pain management, with the goal of winning regulatory approval for Tabex, according to the website.


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