Millions of people would like to discontinue smoking but this addiction is hard to beat. All the currently available drugs in North America have abysmal rates in helping people quit smoking. Moreover, the anti–smoking drugs are prohibitively expensive.
Now there is a study from Eastern Europe which shows that a relatively inexpensive drug called Tabex (cytisine) can help people quit smoking. In this study from Poland, Tabex was shown to help people remain abstinent from smoking at one-year follow up. The results were significantly superior when compared to people who were given the placebo (1).
Unfortunately compared to the placebo, mild side effects were also more common in people who took cytisine. The good thing was that side effects were mild and included dry mouth, dyspepsia and abdominal pain. A few individuals also reported psychiatric mood changes and suicidal ideations, but the numbers were much less than those seen with varenicline (chantix) (2).
How cytisine works is not known but it does possess nicotinic agonist activity.
Cytisine is an extract of the golden rain acacia seeds and has been sold as a stop-smoking aid in Eastern Europe for more than 30 years. A four-week course of treatment costs about $15. In contrast, drugs like varenicline cost in excess of hundreds of dollars.
While cytisine has not been shown to be more effective than varenicline, it does have other benefits. It has fewer and milder side effects and is much less costly. The authors of the study suggest that a longer period of abstinence may occur if the treatment was combined with intensive counseling.
Cytisine is sold online without a prescription. One hundred tablets (1.5 mg ) cost about $25.
In my experience, while buying drugs online may be cheaper, buying online from European dealers is another story. Both the FDA and DEA frown upon Americans ordering drugs online. Plus, giving a credit card online to an unknown European pharmacy has its own hassles.
Until this product is legally available in America, I suggest that consumers wanting to quit smoking stick to products available in America or go Cold Turkey.
1. West R et al.