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There was a time when smoking cessation medications were only available as prescription drugs. Smoking cessation medications began as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) when Pharmacia, a pharmaceutical manufacturer, developed chewing gum laced with nicotine. Nicotine gum was approved for use in the United States by the FDA in 1984. The nicotine patch was developed shortly after and given FDA approval in 1991. By 1996, the FDA granted both nicotine gum and the nicotine patch over-the-counter (OTC) status.


The development of nicotine replacement therapy and smoking cessation medications as prescription drugs to help smokers quit came on the heels of the US Surgeon General’s statement in the late eighties that smoking was an addiction.

Even though nicotine gum and the nicotine patch are no longer prescription drugs, there is still one NRT product available by prescription only. The Nicotrol Inhaler was approved by the FDA for use as a smoking cessation aid in the nineties and still requires a prescription. Though it was once considered a “drug delivery device”, it’s intended use is for replacing not only the nicotine that smokers crave when trying to quit, but also to replace the hand-to-mouth habit associated with smoking.

There is only one non-nicotine smoking cessation drug currently approved by the FDA. Zyban (bupropion hydrochloride) is sometimes prescribed to help smokers quit and clinical research has indicated that it may be effective in long-term quitting success. Zyban contains the same active ingredient as the anti-depressant prescription drugs Wellbutrin SR and Wellbutrin XL. It is used to relieve the common side effects of nicotine withdrawal including anxiety, irritability, and depression. It is available only by prescription and because of possible serious side effects and potential drug interactions, you should talk thoroughly with your doctor before requesting it as a smoking cessation aid.

There are currently no other prescription drugs available for the purposes of quitting smoking.

Disclaimer: Cliff Schaffer does not personally endorse or support any of the comments made within the writings of this article.

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