Sunday, March 01, 2009


For those of you lucky enough never to have smoked or have lived with someone who smokes, Buproprion (otherwise known as Wellbutrin or Zyban) is something of a wonder drug that helps many addicts kick the nicotene habit.
It wasn't always thus. It was first marketed as a simple antidepressant under the name Wellbutrin. Clinicians found it worked best when paired with another antidepressant, but surveys and studies showed it worked. 

Then somebody noticed it also helped them quit smoking. 

The exact same drug was rebranded Zyban and marketed to smokers desperate for a cessation aid. Here's where things get interesting. The cost of a Wellbutrin prescription in Canada is $25, and it's covered if you have drug coverage. 
Call the Wellbutrin Zyban, though, and the cost quintuples to $125...which is not covered. 

There are two things wrong with that last sentence. One is the obvious jump in price for the same drug as a smoking cessation aid rather than as a simple antidepressant. It's almost as if Glaxos-Kline eyed up the stampede of smokers coming to their door and thought lambs to the slaughter.  The second thing is something I've been long puzzled by: smoking is unhealthy. You know it, I know it, at this stage I'd be surprised if babies in the womb didn't know it. Yet something that helps people stop smoking isn't covered by a health care plan (unless you...wink it an antidepressant...)

Reading up on this, I've discovered that Buproprion also is effective at treating sexual dysfunction...yet another huge, untapped clientele. Wonder how long before it's renamed Fukitol and we're charged $250/dose for it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks I sent this link to a friend who can't afford zyban, I'll get him to ask his Doctor about the other.