Pfizer recently unveiled an experimental anti-smoking drug at an investor conference in New York. They claim that almost half of smokers given this oral medicine, called Varenicline, were able to quit smoking after only seven weeks. In the same trial, only 16 percent of people receiving sugar pills managed to stop, while 33 percent of patients who received Zyban also known as Wellbutrin, a drug used to treat depression, were able to quit. Side effects of the Pfizer drug appear negligible.

The new drug was inspired by a natural remedy tested by doctors in the Soviet Union in the late 1960s. The Soviet doctors had tested a chemical called cytisine, derived from a weed known as false tobacco. They reported that cytisine partially activated the nicotine receptors in the brain without being addictive. Nearly three-quarters of America's 50 million smokers try to quit smoking, but their rate of success is low. Pfizer said it is unclear how long patients will need to be on Varenicline after quitting.

Checked 8/9/05

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