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Carrington College Blog

Old drug could be brought back to forefront for smoking cessation

December 18, 2014

Emergence of an old drug in clinical testing could benefit smoking cessation.Certified pharmacy technicians with a considerable amount of experience under their belt may remember a time when aids for quitting smoking were somewhat less stratified. These days, there seems to be an absolute plethora of products available to the mainstream consumer who’s looking to kick the nasty affliction.

From nicotine patches to chewing gum, different things seem to work for different people. Certain individuals have even been known to pursue hypnosis to help them rid their nicotine cravings. Still, it seems that a long forgotten substance has emerged in the market of stop-smoking aids.

What’s more, recent studies have shown it to be potentially more powerful than the traditional and more common methods available for purchase. According to Medscape, Cytisine has been experiencing something of a revival through clinical trials in New Zealand​.¹


While you’ve probably never heard of Cytisine, it’s by no means rare. In fact, Healthline has reported that it has been in use in the U.S. since the 1960s​.2 While the drug was prevalent in our nation for some time, it’s been used predominantly in other parts of the world over the past 20 years and has fallen into obscurity when it comes to stateside awareness.

As a result of this, many doctors are said to not even be familiar with it at this point in time. Derived from a plant, the medicine aids users in quitting their dependency on nicotine by blocking the receptors in the brain that are typically affected by the drug. While other smoking cessation aids have attempted this method as well, few have been even close to as successful as Cytisine.


Cytisine has been used to treat more than 20 million individuals over the course of the more than 40 years it has been in existence. Curious about why it hadn’t been brought to the forefront of smoking cessation products in recent years, researchers at the National Institute for Health Innovation in Auckland, New Zealand chose to engage the substance in clinical trials. Led by head researcher Natalie Walker, the study set out to determine the effectiveness of Cytisine versus other common stop-smoking products currently on the market.

Their findings, which were published in The New England Journal of Medicine, spoke strongly to the power of Cytisine to aid smokers in not only stopping smoking, but remaining nonsmokers thereafter. For example, the publication reported that 40 percent of smokers tested with Cytisine indicated full abstinence at a month after stopping while only 31 percent receiving nicotine replacement therapy said the same​.3

Cost and applications

Cytisine’s potential to truly impact the world of pharmaceuticals comes in its low price point. While normal nicotine replacement therapies can often rival the cost of a pack-a-day smoking habit, Cytisine is actually quite affordable. In fact, according to Healthline, one month of the popular stop-smoking aid Varenicline costs roughly $300 and nicotine patches for the same period of time cost roughly $80.

Twenty five days worth of Cytisine, however, would only run the average consumer about $25. Its low market cost and high accessibility could drive traffic and revenue for pharmacies in the future. Of course, the product would need to go through multiple rounds of branding and testing before it could be marketed commercially.

1) Smoking Cessation Drug May Offer Lower Cost Option, Liam Davenport, Medscape, 12/18/14

2) Forgotten Drug Works Better than Nicotine Patches to Help Smokers Quit, Cameron Scott, Healthline, 12/17/14

3) Cytisine versus Nicotine for Smoking Cessation, Natalie Walker, New England Journal of Health, 12/18/14

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