Novartis Could Thrive On New OTC Stop-Smoking Gum

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted approval of Thrive, a smoking cessation drug from Parsippany, NJ-based Novartis Consumer Health.

The mint-flavored nicotine-replacement gum comes in 2-mg and 4-mg doses, and is designed to help smokers quit smoking in 12 weeks. The company said it doubles a smoker's chances of quitting.

A company spokesperson said that when Thrive goes on sale late in 2007, packaging will include a Thrive user's guide and audio CD. The company will also have a toll-free counseling line to aid smokers in their attempt to quit smoking, at 866.384.3011.

Novartis says Thrive delivers low levels of nicotine to the bloodstream to help reduce cravings and other withdrawal symptoms associated with the cessation of smoking. The lower dose is for people who smoke fewer than 25 cigarettes each day; the 4-mg dose for 25-or-more per day smokers.

Competitor Pfizer got a jump on the category a year ago when its Chantix pill became the first smoking-cessation drug to get FDA approval in 10 years.



Pfizer launched Chantix late last year with the theme line: "My time to quit," and will begin a new marketing program for the drug this summer with advertising touting it as cheaper than a pack of cigs. Pfizer reportedly earned $162 million in the first quarter this year on the drug, driven by the U.S. market.

Cost of the new Novartis drug was not divulged, but Chantix runs about $3 per day, as opposed to a minimum $7 per pack of cigarettes in most cities. The Chantix Web site at lets consumers tally the money they spend on cigarettes.

The first nicotine-replacement product to help smokers stop was developed by Pharmacia and marketed by Smithkline Beecham as Nicorette.

Others include the Pharmacia-developed patch, which became Johnson & Johnson's Nicotrol patch, and SKB's Nicoderm.

Before Chantix, the most recent approval was in 1997 for Glaxo Wellcome's Zyban a non-nicotine cessation drug known in the world of psychopharmacology as the anti-depressant Wellbutrin. Two years later, the FDA approved the combined use of Zyban and a nicotine patch.

Sales in 2000 of nicotine-based cessation drugs were reportedly $700 million. (tk)

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