According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the $10 million will be used to fund phase III testing of NicVAX, an injectable drug already shown successful in helping people quit smoking without relapsing. Successful completion of the phase III trials will bring the NicVAX vaccine closer to final FDA approval.
Based on successful initial testing, the FDA has already granted NicVAX "fast track" designation for final testing and approval.
"Nicotine addiction causes nearly a half million deaths annually in the United States alone. Finding effective treatments that can help people stay off cigarettes has been a real challenge," said NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins in a press release. "This Phase III trial of a nicotine vaccine offers tremendous hope towards solving this immense public health problem."
NicVAX interacts with the brain to block the rewarding effects of nicotine. "We know that once inside the brain, nicotine triggers the release of dopamine, a chemical linked to pleasure and to addiction," said National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora Volkow. "A vaccine that limits the ability of nicotine to enter the brain, and that is effective for six to 12 months following vaccination will give smokers a fighting chance to end the addiction/relapse cycle that plagues the great majority of smokers trying to quit."
NIH statistics show than cigarette smoking costs the US more than $193 billion annually in lost productivity and health care.