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A shot in the head of nicotine addiction

Smoking is an addiction. This is because tobacco contains nicotine, a drug that is addictive. The nicotine, makes it very difficult (although not impossible) to quit. In fact, since the U.S. Surgeon General's 1964 report on the dangers of smoking, millions of Americans have quit.  This is in spite of the difficulties and represents only a small fraction of those who have attempted to quit.

Tobacco use is the single leading preventable cause of death in the United States and is responsible for more than 440,000 deaths each year.1 According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 49 million adults and 6 million teenagers in the U.S. smoke, triggering an estimated $75.5 billion in excess medical costs and another $81.9 billion in mortality-related productivity losses each year.

Despite widespread knowledge of tobacco's dangerous health effects, smoking continues to pose a serious public health threat as the number of teenage smoker’s increases and others are unable to quit due, in large part, to tobacco's addictive properties. According to the CDC, an estimated 70 percent (32.2 million) of smokers want to quit, but only 2.5 percent (1.2 million) per year succeed in quitting permanently.

Still, more than 400,000 deaths occur in the U.S. each year from smoking-related illnesses. The reason for these deaths is that smoking greatly increases the risk of getting lung cancer, heart attack, chronic lung diseases, stroke, and many other cancers. Moreover, smoking is perhaps the most preventable cause of breathing (respiratory) diseases within the USA.

Smoking harms not just the smoker, but also family members, coworkers, and others who breathe the smoker's cigarette smoke, called secondhand smoke. Among infants up to 18 months of age, secondhand smoke is associated with as many as 300,000 cases of bronchitis and pneumonia each year. In addition, secondhand smoke from a parent's cigarette increases a child's chances for middle ear problems, causes coughing and wheezing, and worsens asthma.

Nabi Biopharmaceuticals is developing NicVAX ™ (Nicotine Conjugate Vaccine) a novel and proprietary investigational vaccine to prevent and treat nicotine addiction and as an aid to smoking cessation. NicVAX is designed to cause the immune system to produce antibodies that bind to nicotine and prevent it from entering the brain. We believe that these nicotine antibodies will act like a "sponge" soaking up nicotine as it circulates in the blood stream and preventing it from reaching the brain. The positive stimulus in the brain that is normally caused by nicotine would then no longer be present.

"An immunized tobacco user would theoretically receive no positive reinforcement from nicotine use," said Robert Naso, Ph.D., a senior vice president at Nabi Biopharmaceuticals.

Preclinical studies  have shown  that vaccination with NicVAX  was successful in preventing nicotine from reaching the brain and blocking the effects of nicotine, including effects that can lead to addiction or can reinforce and maintain addiction.

Final approval for NicVAX could take several years yet but is being developed to help the millions of patients in the U.S. and potentially billions worldwide who are addicted to tobacco products, or are at risk of becoming addicted.

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