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Varenicline (Champix, Chantix)

Varenicline (trade name Chantix in the USA and Champix in Europe and other countries, marketed by Pfizer, usually in the form of varenicline tartrate) is a prescription medication used to treat smoking addiction. Varenicline is a nicotinic receptor partial agonist. In this respect, it is similar to cytisine and different from nicotinic antagonist, bupropion, and nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) like nicotine patches (commonly, "the patch") and nicotine gum. As a partial agonist, it both reduces cravings for and decreases the pleasurable effects of cigarettes and other tobacco products, and through these mechanisms, it can assist some patients in quitting smoking.

 Picture of Champix

3D Structure of Varenicline


Picture of Champix


Chemical Structure of Varenicline




Varenicline is indicated for (suggested for use in) smoking cessation. It is an alternative to NRTs and agonist medication and has demonstrated greater efficacy than them in comparable studies.[1]


The FDA has approved its use for twelve weeks. If smoking cessation has been achieved it may be continued for another twelve weeks.[2]


Varenicline has not been tested in children, those under 18 years old, or pregnant women, and therefore is not recommended for use by these groups. Women currently breastfeeding should also avoid this product, since varenicline may pass into the breast milk, leading to unknown effects on the child.



Mechanism of action


Varenicline is a partial agonist of the α4β2 subtype of the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. In addition it acts on α3β4 and weakly on α3β2 and α6-containing receptors. A full agonism was displayed on α7-receptors.[3]





Most of the active compound is excreted renally (92-93%). A small proportion is glucuronidated, oxidated, N-formylated or conjugated to a hexose.[4] The elimination half-life is about 24 hours.



Side Effects


Nausea occurs commonly in people taking varenicline. Other less common side effects include headache, difficulty sleeping, and abnormal dreams. Rare side effects reported by people taking varenicline compared to placebo include change in taste, vomiting, abdominal pain, flatulence, and constipation.[5]


In November 2007, the FDA announced it had received post-marketing reports that patients using Chantix for smoking cessation had experienced several serious symptoms, including suicidal ideation and occasional suicidal behaviour, erratic behaviour, and drowsiness. It is unknown whether the psychiatric symptoms are related to the drug or to nicotine withdrawal symptoms, although not all patients had stopped smoking. FDA is aware of the highly-publicized case of Carter Albrecht who was shot to death by his neighbour after, in the apparent state of delirium, hitting his girlfriend and trying to force the entry in the neighbour’s house.[6] Although in this case the delirium appeared to be caused by taking varenicline with a high dose of alcohol, FDA asked Pfizer for additional cases that might be similar. The FDA also recommended that health care professionals and patients watch for behavioural and mood changes.[7] March 13, 2008 an article was published in Diabetes Medicine about an insulin-dependent diabetic who had multiple episodes of hypoglycaemia which she had not had before taking varenicline and which stopped when varenicline was stopped. [8]





Varenicline was discovered at Pfizer through the research aimed at modifying the structure of cytisine,[9] a European smoking cessation aid and also a partial α4β2-nicotinic antagonist.[10][11]


Varenicline received a "priority review" by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in February 2006, shortening the usual 10-month review period to 6 months because of its demonstrated effectiveness in clinical trials and perceived lack of safety issues.[12] The agency's approval of the drug came on May 11, 2006.[2]. Beginning August 1, 2006, varenicline has been available for sale in the United States, and on

September 29, 2006, it was approved for sale in the European Union.




1. Jorenby D E, Hays J T, Rigotti N A, Azoulay S, Watsky E J, Williams K E, Billing C B, Gong J,

Reeves K R (2006). "Efficacy of varenicline, an alpha4beta2 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor partial

agonist, vs placebo or sustained-release bupropion for smoking cessation: a randomized controlled trial".

JAMA 296 (1): 56–63. PMID 16820547. 

2. a b U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Approves Novel Medication for Smoking Cessation.

Press release, 11 May 2006.

3. Mihalak KB, Carroll FI, Luetje CW (2006). "Varenicline is a partial agonist at alpha4beta2 and a full

agonist at alpha7 neuronal nicotinic receptors". Mol. Pharmacol. 70 (3): 801–5. doi:10.1124/mol.106.025130.

PMID 16766716. 

4. Obach RS, Reed-Hagen AE, Krueger SS, Obach BJ, O'Connell TN, Zandi KS, Miller S, Coe JW.

Metabolism and disposition of varenicline, a selective alpha4beta2 acetylcholine receptor partial agonist,

in vivo and in vitro. Drug Metab Dispos 2006;34:121-30. PMID 16221753.

5. American Cancer Society. Cancer Drug Guide: Varenicline. Retrieved on 2008-01-19.

6. ABC News: Did Quit-Smoking Pill Lead to Man's Death?. Retrieved on 2007-12-15.

7. Early Communication About an Ongoing Safety Review: Varenicline (marketed as Chantix). United States

Food and Drug Administration (November 20 2007). Retrieved on 2007-11-21.

8. {{|Title= Varenicline may trigger severe hypoglycaemia in Type 1 diabetes.|Author= Kristensen PL,

Pedersen-Bjergaard U, Thorsteinsson B.}}

9. Coe JW, Brooks PR, Vetelino MG, et al (2005). "Varenicline: an alpha4beta2 nicotinic receptor partial

agonist for smoking cessation". J. Med. Chem. 48 (10): 3474–7. doi:10.1021/jm050069n. PMID 15887955. 

10. Schwartz JL (1979). "Review and evaluation of methods of smoking cessation, 1969-77. Summary of a

monograph". Public Health Rep 94 (6): 558–63. PMID 515342.  Full text at PMC: 1431736

11. Etter JF (2006). "Cytisine for smoking cessation: a literature review and a meta-analysis". Arch. Intern.

Med. 166 (15): 1553–9. doi:10.1001/archinte.166.15.1553. PMID 16908787. 

12. Kuehn BM (2006). "FDA speeds smoking cessation drug review". JAMA 295 (6): 614.

doi:10.1001/jama.295.6.614. PMID 16467225. 


Full document can be found at


An in depth study performed by the makers can be found at Pfizers website as a PDF document


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