Two Toronto doctors are looking for investors to put up about $3 million to take their nicotine inhaler from the prototype phase and put it into the hands of cigarette smokers unable to quit their habit, according to a story by Madhavi Acharya-Tom Yew for the Toronto Star. (The full story is at http://www.thestar.com/business/2013/08/03/toronto_doctors_seek_investors_for_nicotine_inhaler.html.)
Arthur Slutsky and Noe Zamel, who specialize in pulmonary medicine, have developed Nico-Puff (www.nico-puff.ca), which is an inhaler that looks and feels like a cigarette but which, according to them, is much safer than even electronic cigarettes.
Zamel is director of the Mount Sinai Hospital Pulmonary Function Laboratory and director of the Toronto Western Hospital Pulmonary Research Laboratory. Slutsky is a vice president of research at St. Michael’s hospital and professor of medicine, surgery and biomedical engineering at the University of Toronto.
Nico-Puff has no battery and contains only powered nicotine and lactose, which is commonly used in inhalation drugs that treat asthma.
There is no combustion and no smoke. The user inhales, but nothing that is exhaled impacts nearby individuals; so, in theory, Nico-Puff could be used by somebody sitting in the middle seat of an airplane.
Because users inhale the nicotine, blood nicotine levels peak much faster than is the case with nicotine patches or chewing gum.
Nico-Puff is disposable; it is made of paper with a plastic filter containing nicotine powder. It looks a lot like a cigarette.
“We wanted to make it look like a cigarette,” Slutsky said. “There’s something about hanging out with friends and holding something and putting it up to your mouth. There’s a physical addiction and a social addiction.”
Slutsky would ideally like to see people off cigarettes completely. “That clearly would be the best thing to do. The trouble is there’s many people out there who smoke who have tried multiple times to stop and just can’t. For them, a harm-reduction approach makes a lot of sense.”
Later in the story, he pointed out that, by itself, nicotine focused attention and improved alertness, with few negative side effects. “It has some pretty good properties in relatively small doses,” he added. “It’s the dirty delivery system that makes cigarettes incredibly harmful.”
Nico-Puff’s makers say that while they could launch the device in other parts of the world, current regulations would make it difficult to get it on the market in Canada. Because it contained nicotine, Nico-Puff would fall under the Food and Drugs Act in Canada, so its makers would be required to conduct extensive scientific and clinical studies to prove its safety. That could take another three or five years and be very expensive.
That’s frustrating to Nico-Puff’s creators, but also to David Sweanor, adjunct professor of law at the University of Ottawa and an expert on tobacco and nicotine issues in public health.
Sweanor, who is not an investor, has known the researchers for years, and is familiar with their careers and their device. These are very impressive people “at the top of their field,” Sweanor was quoted as saying. “This is the sort of product we need, coming from exactly the sort of people you’d like to see it come from. It’s not Big Tobacco saying, ‘We’ve come out with something, trust us.’”
Category: Breaking News