Ex-Amarin CEO's biotech strikes paydirt data on anti-smoking drug

A little-known biotech company founded by a group that includes Rick Stewart, the former CEO at Amarin, and focused on a single development project finds itself in the spotlight this morning. Extab, which is registered in Delaware, has turned up solid data that an old Bulgarian drug created from a compound found in the late 19th century is fairly effective at getting smokers to kick the habit. And that could eventually make it a cheap rival to Chantix, which has comparable efficacy data.

In a study involving 740 smokers, 8.4% of the subjects taking Tabex stopped smoking for a year, compared to 2.4% of the placebo arm. Tabex, it turns out, is based on cytisine, a compound found in nature which is known to mimic the effects of nicotine. That's the same substance that is used in Chantix.

That drug has been sold in Eastern Europe for decades, but never passed muster at Western regulatory groups. Now Extab is taking Tabex and putting it through the kind of trials that regulators--as well as dozens of top news organizations around the world--won't be able to ignore.

"We recognize that stopping smoking can be extremely difficult and we hope that by using cytisine as a substitute for nicotine, the results of this trial could transform the health of nations around the globe by offering a practical option, even for the poorest smokers," says Robert West, an investigator at University College London, who led the study.

- read the article from The Guardian
- see the story from Bloomberg