Doctors prescribe Zyban to people who are having trouble quitting
smoking. Apparently, it helps reduce the cravings,
irratibility, and sluggishness that often afflict people
trying to quit. Intriguingly, Zyban is chemically identical to
Wellbutrin, a common antidepressant drug; they're both bupropion
hydrochloride. Buproprion is actually an atypical antidepressant;
instead of acting on serotonin and norepinephrine, it blocks the
reuptake of dopamine.
Why market the same drug under two different names? Pure
psychology, I think. If you asked your doctor to help you stop
smoking, and he prescribed you an antidepressant, you might think he was
implying that you were mentally ill. Given the stigma associated with
psychiatric illness and psychiatric medicine, you might be
less likely to take the drug. You might even say, "Geez, what the hell is
this quack doing? I'm not depressed; I'm trying to stop smoking!"
This way, if you check up on your doctor, you'll see he's prescribed you
an antismoking drug, and all will be well.
Now, I'm not saying that you shouldn't take Zyban--it seems to work,
which is what's important. I'm just saying that the placebo effect
Interesting point by whizkid...I hadn't thought of that possibility but it seems quite plausible (heck, my own insurance company covers antidepressants but not antismoking drugs). One problem, though: Wellbutrin (the antidepressant that most health insurance plans cover) was introduced before Zyban (the antismoking drug that most plans won't cover). Why then create Zyban at all, given that it would be less lucrative? (I'm not aware of any insurance programs that cover smoking-cessation drugs but not antidepressants). I suppose it's possible that some insurance companies might get upset that you're using a drug for something other than its express purpose, but off-label prescriptions are relatively common and it's possible to get an existing drug approved for a second purpose.