Much-Hyped Anti-Nicotine Vaccine Goes Up in Flames

By Dirk Hanson 07/19/11

Despite loads of positive press, Nabi Pharmaceutical's NicVax failed to help smokers quit in FDA trials, causing the company's stock to plunge 69 percent in a single day.

Smoke And Mirrors ? NIcVax bites the dust.
Photo via hubpages

One of the most promising experimental vaccines claiming to help smokers quit the habit was officially thrown to the wayside yesterday after its manufacturers failed to prove effectiveness in critical FDA clinical trials necessary to market the vaccine in the U.S. Researchers at Nabi Pharmaceuticals had spent over seven years and close to $500 million working on NicVax, a vaccine that was created to aid smoking cessation and prevent relapses in recovering smokers. Unfortunately, the drug didn't live up to its expectations. "NicVAX is dead as currently configured," said Jeffrey Cohen, senior analyst at CK Cooper & Co. in Irvine, California, in a candid interview with Bloomberg News. "Nabi's recovery is somewhat unrealistic." Earlier in the testing process, Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), had been optimistic about its chances, but admitted  that “we need to get a wider response,” since a significant number of smokers and cocaine users did not form antibodies from the vaccine. In addition, “we need longer-lasting responses so we don’t have to re-vaccinate.” Nabi shares dropped 69% in trading on the NASDAQ Stock Market when news of the FDA ruling was released late Monday. No word yet on whether research on the drug will continue.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]