I have a confession to make–I’m a smoker and have been for the past 18 years. I want to quit and have tried to kick the habit many times, but find the physical and psychological withdrawal unbearable. I’ll spare you all the gory details, but suffice to say it isn’t pretty.
I’ve tried Zyban and all the nicotine replacement therapies and before any of you suggest hypnosis, please bear in mind that the thought of some stranger poking around in my subconscious does not appeal to me in the least. But I am approaching middle age and those all important heart-attack years, so when I hear about a new treatment for die hard smokers like myself, I get very excited. Enter Champix by Pfizer.
Champix (Chantix in the United States) works by blocking the effect of nicotine on the brain, thereby reducing the urge to smoke. In a statement released to the media today, the makers of Champix, Pfizer Australia claim it can reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms of smokers, but only if said smoker is committed to kicking the habit. Smokers continue to smoke during the first week or two of treatment and then quit whilst taking the remainder of the 12 week course of medication. Hmm sounds suspiciously like ‘Zyban’ to me.
Champix is available only by prescription from your doctor and will be placed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from 1st January 2008. Do you suppose it is coincidence that Champix is being added to the PBS to coincide with that new year’s resolution to quit smoking?
In regards to Champix, I don’t see anything new here. The onus is still on the smoker to weather the physical and psychological withdrawal and if you can do that, you probably won’t need a prescription medication anyway. One of the many nicotine replacement therapies available without prescription will probably suffice. As I’ve already pointed out, a very similar drug marketed under the name of Zyban was released several years ago. Zyban quietly disappeared from shelves after it failed to live up to all the hype and then there were those reports in the media of some very unpleasant side effects. Personally, I stopped taking Zyban after it kept me awake for 3 days and in case you were wondering–Yes, I was still smoking the whole time.
For years I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that if the government really wanted to curb the incidence of smoking in Australia, they would redirect those precious health dollars into treatment programs, instead of handing the money over to pharmaceutical companies via the PBS.
Millions of dollars are filtered into treatment and rehabilitation programs for drug addicts and alcoholics each year. Why don’t they develop similar treatment programs for smokers? Well, as one clever psychologist/university lecturer once told me, the government has become dependent on the revenue raised by taxes on tobacco products. Another possibility is the initial costs of developing effective treatment programs for smokers would be enormous. However, when you consider the long term savings to our health care system, isn’t the initial outlay worth it?