A new nicotine vaccine that hasproven safe and well-tolerated results inincreased nicotine abstinence whentaken at higher doses. The vaccine worksby triggering the production of antibodiesthat bind to nicotine, thereby creatinga complex too large to pass throughthe blood-brain barrier. In an effort totest the safety of an experimental nicotinevaccine known as NicVAX, 68 smokersrandomly received a placebo or 50-,100-, or 200-microgram doses of the vaccine.Doses were administered on days0, 28, 56, and 182, and participants werefollowed for 38 weeks. Patients were notinstructed to quit smoking unless theyfelt like quitting. Of the 56 people whocompleted the study, 6 people taking thehighest dose abstained from smoking for30 days, compared with only one takingthe 100-microgram dose, none taking the50-microgram dose, and 2 participantstaking the placebo. Those taking thehighest dose also took the least amountof time to achieve 30-day abstinence.Side effects, which were mild, were thesame for those in the NicVAX group andfor those taking the placebo. Researchersanticipated withdrawal symptomsand cravings as side effects, but noone reported these symptoms—whichmay have been due to the gradualincrease in antibody concentrations.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medicalwriter based in Wakefield, RI.