New smoking cessation product on trial

It is hoped that the product, Tabex, used for decades in Bulgaria and other parts of Eastern Europe might be an attractive option for many New Zealanders.

Tabex contains cytisine, a chemical similar to nicotine but found in various plants including the Golden Rain tree and the New Zealand Kowhai.

The Clinical Trials Research Unit (CTRU), Centre for Tobacco Control Research, Pacific Health and the School of Pharmacy from The University of Auckland, together with The Quit Group are seeking 1,310 people who want to stop smoking, who are at least 18 years of age, to participate in the cytisine trial.

Dr Natalie Walker, the University’s lead investigator on the trial, says: “Research suggests that cytisine is better than a placebo, but we are not sure how it compares to nicotine replacement therapy. The aim of our study is to answer this question. We also think that cytisine may help relieve cravings and other withdrawal symptoms and therefore make it easier to quit and lessen the likelihood of relapse.”

Within the New Zealand community Māori have the highest rates of smoking prevalence and Dr Marewa Glover, a co-investigator from the Centre for Tobacco Control says that Tabex has potential to make a difference for Māori. “Being able to whakapapa back to the kowhai tree, which supplies other traditional rongoa treatments, means Tabex could be more attractive as a smoking cessation aid for Māori than other currently available treatments.”

Dr Vili Nosa, a co-investigator from Pacific Health at the University notes that the numbers of Pacific people smoking are also much too high. “We need to find treatments that are appealing to the Pacific people,” he says. “Cytisine, if shown to work, is likely to be appealing to people on low incomes, cultures where use of natural medicines is widespread, and to those who don’t like using currently available products,” says Dr Nosa.

Smokers will be enlisted through the national Quitline, with half the participants sent a 25-day course of Tabex tablets, which contain cytisine. The second group will receive the usual method of treatment, consisting of a nicotine patch and/or gum or lozenge supplied by Quitline. Both groups will receive smoking cessation behavioural support.

People who smoke but wish to quit and would like to find out if they are eligible for inclusion in the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) funded study should call Quitline on 0800 778 778.

“Smokers need all the support they can get to break free from this powerful addiction. We are pleased to be involved in this trial which could offer another option to people trying to give up smoking,” says The Quit Group’s Research and Communications Manager, Bruce Bassett.