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Pfizer Testing Anti-Smoking Pill
Aired June 17, 2003 - 19:24 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So if the gum and the patch don't it for you -- and they don't do it for a lot of people -- you might soon have a third choice to help you kick the smoking habit.
Drug maker Pfizer has unveiled an experimental pill to help smokers quit. Now the company says early results are so promising they're pushing for clinical trials of the pill this spring.
CNN Sanjay Gupta joins us now with more.
Sanjay, tell us about this. How serious is this?
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very exciting. I mean, Pfizer's putting a lot of hope into this particular drug.
It's an anti-smoking pill and certainly that's something that a lot of drug makers have tried to come up with the past.
Three things that's interesting about this drug. One is the way it works. It actually fills the nicotine receptors in the brain. It fills up those same receptors that would get filled if you were actually smoking a cigarette. Two, it does it in a way so it's not pleasurable, so you don't actually become addicted to the medicine itself. And finally, since those receptors are full, if you do smoke a cigarette, it doesn't feel as pleasurable or as good as it used to.
Some really good results, as you mentioned, early on anyway.
COOPER: What stage of testing is this thing in?
GUPTA: Well, the way the FDA process works, very simple, there's three stages. The first stage, really, is to see if a drug is safe. That's the first stage.
Second stage is to see if it's effective and the third stage is to see if it's more effective than anything that exists out there right now. They've just finished stage two and as you mentioned, they're pushing towards phase three very quickly.
ANDERSON: I was amazed, reading some of the statistics on this thing, that I read from -- one group said that only 3 percent of people that try to quit smoking cold turkey actually succeed.
GUPTA: Yes. It's kind of interesting. Only 3 percent. If you actually try and use a medication, some of the medications that are out there, about 10 percent. Interesting point about that, as well, Anderson. A lot of the medications are predicated on the fact that you actually continue to give someone nicotine. That's the patches and the gums, like you mentioned. And then you slowly wean them down over time.
This medication works totally different. It's not a nicotine analog. It just simply fills up the nicotine receptors.
Let's take a look at those numbers like you were mentioning. They actually show you the numbers now: 48 percent with this medication, which is called varenicline. You might be hearing a lot about this medication later. Zyban, a very popular medication out there. It's actually an antidepressant. Thirty-three percent, and 16 percent with the placebo.
The other numbers that you were mentioning, as well, 3 percent of people if they just try to quit cold turkey, 3 percent of people only can actually be successful that way and about 10 percent if you get one of these medications like the gums or patches.
COOPER: So if someone sitting at home thinks, "I want to try this thing," when might they be able to?
GUPTA: Well, you know, Pfizer is really pushing this along quickly. Typically what happens after stage two they take some time to analyze the data. Pfizer is saying, "We're so convinced that this works. We're getting almost 50 percent -- that's after seven weeks, by the way -- 50 percent of people stopping after seven weeks." They're so convinced they're pushing along more quickly.
I still say realistically at least a year or two...
GUPTA: ... which is hard for people to hear but that's actually a lot faster than it typically takes for a Stage III.
COOPER: All right. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much.
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