TOBACCO VACCINE: Innovation Might Help Addicts
A promising nicotine vaccine could help the country's 60 million smokers kick the habit (Knox, Boston Globe, 12/17). The NicVax vaccine's developer, Dr. Paul Pentel of the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, said the goal of the project is to develop antibodies in the body's immune system that attack nicotine before it reaches the brain, reducing its addictiveness (Lerner, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 12/17). Tests on laboratory rats showed antibodies successfully blocking 65% of the nicotine inhaled. Dr. Alan Leshner of the sponsoring National Institute on Drug Abuse said, "Since [addicts] would find tobacco less rewarding, they would be less likely to continue using it" (Majeski, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 12/17). He added that a vaccine would be "tremendous" in helping to stop "one of the biggest public health problems in this country" (Boston Globe, 12/17).
Not a Cure-All
Pentel cautioned that NicVax is not a "magic bullet" that can "make someone quit" against their will because of its potential ineffectiveness after a few months. He does note, however, that booster shots may help prevent a relapse. But others warn against the use of medications to solve nicotine dependence, saying additional behavioral counseling is needed. Human trials of the vaccine are expected to begin in early 2002 (Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 12/17).