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Home / Stop Smoking / Smoking cessation: Champix vs Zyban

Smoking cessation: Champix vs Zyban

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  • High success rates
  • Limits withdrawal cravings
  • Hassle-free tablets

At least two-thirds of smokers in the UK want to quit smoking but many find it difficult. Due to the highly addictive substance - nicotine which is in cigarettes, the thought of just leaving cigarettes for good is often a challenging task to achieve. When you stop smoking, you can start suffering nicotine withdrawal symptoms and other cravings that make it seem almost impossible, fortunately there is help available.

Certain prescription medication have been developed and formulated to aid those looking to quit smoking, to do just that, but at a faster rate. One of the leading stop smoking prescription medication available on the pharmaceutical market is Champix (varenicline), which can triple your chance of quitting successfully. It also has a close alternative in the form of Zyban which also helps to prevent the cravings for nicotine. As with any medication, it's important to understand how it works, its advantages and its potential side-effects.

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What are Champix and Zyban?

Champix and Zyban are both prescription medications that help you stop smoking, by easing the withdrawal symptoms from the nicotine contained in cigarettes and making smoking less pleasurable.

They are the only nicotine-free medications for quitting smoking that are FDA approved. Zyban was first approved for use by the FDA in 1997, and Champix was later developed and approved in 2006.

How do Champix and Zyban work?

Champix (Varenicline) reduces cravings and nicotine withdrawal symptoms, by blocking the nicotine receptors in your brain making smoking less pleasurable and by triggering the release of dopamine. Champix is taken for an initial course of 12 weeks. This can be extended for a further 12 weeks, to further reduce the risk of a relapse.

Zyban (Bupropion) is an extended release form antidepressant. It affects certain chemicals in the brain, which helps ease withdrawals and cravings. Zyban has been shown to not be as clinically effective as Champix, so it is less frequently prescribed in the UK. An initial course of this treatment is for 8-12 weeks, which can be extended.

What are the pros and cons of using Champix and Zyban?

In clinical trials Champix has been found to be one of the most effective treatments for quitting smoking - more effective than Zyban or a placebo. Cochrane researchers tested both of these prescription medications against placebo sugar pills. They found that Champix tripled smokers' chances of quitting versus a placebo. Zyban also improved chances of quitting, but only by 1.5 times that of a placebo - results that are more similar to nicotine replacement therapies.1

Both Champix and Zyban can be taken in conjunction with any nicotine replacement products. They are taken in an easy pill format, twice a day. In both cases it can take up to seven days for them to reach a level in your system where they are effective. As a result, it is recommended that you start taking them 1-2 weeks before your planned quit date.

Champix is not suitable if you've ever suffered from:

  • Depression or mental health conditions
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart disease or circulation problems
  • Heavy Alcohol Use

Zyban is not suitable if you've ever suffered from:

  • Seizures of any kind
  • Head traumas or any loss of consciousness
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Cirrhosis or kidney disease

You can also not combine Zyban with any other medications containing bupropion or with the class of antidepressants known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors.

Side effects of Champix and Zyban

Those taking Champix may experience side effect such as:

  • nausea, constipation, insomnia or vivid dreams.

Less common side effects are fainting, blurred vision, skin reactions and the impairment of driving abilities.

Those taking Zyban may experience some side effects such as:

  • headaches, insomnia, agitation and dry-mouth.

Zyban may also be associated with seizures, although this is a rare side effect, affecting less than 1 in 1,000 users.

There also may be a connection between Zyban and Champix with other mental health conditions – with potential side-effects of depression, hostility or suicidal thoughts and behaviours. While Zyban and Champix are highly effective treatments, the FDA did request that both medications include a black box warning in 2009, to warn of this potential link. It's recommended that any change in mood or behaviour while taking Zyban or Champix be reported to your doctor immediately.

Summary Comparison

Champix Zyban
3 Month Quit Rate 44% 30%
Success Rate at 1 Year 22-23%2 8-10%
Initial Treatment Length 12 Weeks 8-12 Weeks
Dosage Starts at 0.5mg once daily
Builds to 1mg twice daily
150mg 1 or 2 times daily
Common Side-effects
  • Nausea
  • Constipation (Gas)
  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Dry Mouth

Medical Recommendations

Champix is recommended over Zyban due to the increased success rates experienced. Recent studies have also highlighted the benefit of combination therapies, and medical professionals are increasingly recommending the use of Champix with traditional nicotine replacement products.

According to Harvard Health, two new studies have found quit rates increase 49% after 24 weeks of treatment when using a combination of Champix and nicotine replacement products. This is the highest results achieved from any quit smoking treatment. However, as mentioned, there can be side-effects and these are more likely to be experienced when using combination therapies.3

You can order your course of Champix online, by completing your free online consultation today. Once our doctors confirm that it is safe for you to take Champix, your prescription will be dispatched from our pharmacy with next day delivery.