Plant compound shows promise in helping people quit smoking, study finds

A recent study could significantly increase the chances of successful smoking cessation. The research suggests that this low-cost, generic stop-smoking aid is more effective than placebo and may even outperform nicotine replacement therapy.

Cytisine has been utilized as a stop-smoking aid in eastern Europe since the 1960s and has shown no major safety concerns, according to the researchers. However, it remains unlicensed and unavailable in most countries outside of central and eastern Europe. This lack of accessibility is particularly concerning for low- and middle-income (LAMI) countries, where cytisine could greatly benefit global health.

The study, published in the journal Addiction, which analysed data from eight trials involving nearly 6,000 patients, demonstrated that cytisine more than doubled the chances of successful smoking cessation compared to a placebo. The researchers also noted that cytisine may be more effective than nicotine replacement therapy, a medically approved method of treating tobacco use disorder.

Omar De Santi from Centro Nacional de Intoxicaciones (CNI), Buenos Aires, Argentina, one of the lead authors of the study, emphasized the potential impact of cytisine as a cost-effective stop-smoking aid. “Our study adds to the evidence that cytisine is an effective and inexpensive stop-smoking aid. It could be very useful in reducing smoking in LAMI countries where cost-effective smoking cessation drugs are urgently needed,” De Santi said.

Smoking is widely recognized as the leading cause of preventable death worldwide. De Santi believes that cytisine could play a significant role in addressing this global health issue. “Cytisine has the potential to be one of the big answers to that problem,” he added.

The study also compared cytisine with nicotine replacement therapy and varenicline, another smoking cessation medication. While cytisine demonstrated modestly better results compared to nicotine replacement therapy, its benefits over varenicline were less clear.

Cytisine, originally synthesized in Bulgaria in 1964 under the brand name Tabex, has since been marketed in various countries across eastern Europe and Asia. In 2017, the Polish pharmaceutical company Aflofarm introduced it as Desmoxan, available only by prescription. Additionally, Canada approved it as an over-the-counter natural health product called Cravv.

Due to its affordability, cytisine could play a crucial role in increasing accessibility to drug therapy for smokers, particularly in LAMI countries where such options are limited, the researchers suggested.

(With inputs from PTI)