Prices for Smoking Cessation Drug Chantix Increase by 106% in Just Five Years

Tori Marsh
Tori Marsh, MPH, is on the Research Team at GoodRx, and is the resident expert on drug pricing and savings.
Posted on

Prices for Chantix, the prescription drug used to help people quit smoking, have increased by 106% over the past five years. According to an analysis of GoodRx data, a 30-day supply of Chantix now costs around $485, whereas in 2013, people would have been able get that same prescription for around $236.

The cash price of $485 for a 30-day supply of Chantix can be unmanageable, and many will look to their insurer to cover the cost. However, a deep look at coverage data tells a grim story. According to MMIT, a drug formulary database, a large number of commercially insured patients are covered for Chantix, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the medication is affordable. Chantix is considered a Tier 3 drug under many plans, which means that despite being covered, plan members are often on the hook for high out-of-pocket costs.

The analysis is based on a representative sample of US prescription fills (not fills using GoodRx) and comes from several sources including pharmacies and insurers, providing a representative sample of nationwide US prescription drug volume. The following cash price data represent the full list prices at the pharmacy — the so-called “usual and customary” price. (It does not include insurance co-pays or co-insurance.)

Chantix’s soaring price, coupled with its poor coverage, does not bode well for the estimated 37.8 million Americans who are currently smoking. Moreover, tobacco use disproportionally affects low-income populations — those that may not be able to afford to pay for Chantix. As smoking is correlated with dangerous health conditions like cancer, depression and obesity, and smoking cessation treatments like Chantix are becoming less accessible, we may soon see an uptick in illnesses and deaths related to tobacco use.

So how well does Chantix work?

Emerging in 2006, Chantix quickly became known as one of the best ways to quit smoking. However, according to the FDA, Chantix is associated with serious side effects including nightmares, suicidal thoughts and amnesia. Manufacturer Pfizer received so many complaints about these side effects that the FDA required them to give Chantix a black box warning, the most severe kind of warning possible for a drug. (Some have even speculated that Chantix was involved in the recent death of prominent chef and travel documentarian, Anthony Bourdain.) In 2009, the FDA allowed Pfizer to remove the warning, believing that the benefits of Chantix outweighed its risks.

Despite the drug’s possible side effects, research indicates that Chantix can work. In one study, Pfizer reported that 44% of subjects had quit smoking after 12 weeks of taking Chantix. Since research shows that counseling can increase smoking cessation rates, patients taking Chantix should also enroll in programs like the Get Quit Plan for additional support and follow-up while quitting.

If you or your doctor think Chantix might be a good option for you, consider these tips to help mitigate the high monthly cost.

Put drug prices & coupons in your pocket!
We'll text you a link to download our free Android or iPhone app
Get GoodRx Mobile App

Drugs featured in this story

Filed under