Chantix Problems in BritainNov 28, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP The controversial smoking cessation drug known as Chantix in the U.S., was introduced by Pfizer as Champix nearly two years ago in Great Britain. The drug is known generically as varenicline in both countries and, in Great Britain, about 400,000 prescriptions have been written says BBC News’ online site. Internationally, says the BBC, about nine million prescriptions have been written.
The BBC explains that Chantix is a nicotine-mimicking drug that enables the body to reduce its urge for cigarettes while also reducing its withdrawal symptoms. However, in studies, the drug did not provide increased efficacy over other methods of smoking cessation. Despite this, notes the BBC, Pfizer earned over $883 million from the drug in its first year.
In addition to not offering better results over other alternatives, Chantix has been associated with unusual and sometimes dangerous side effects. The BBC piece discussed a woman who attempted suicide days after beginning the drug and a man who succeeded in killing himself while on Champix. Interestingly, in the suicide case, the coroner was unable to rule the death a suicide because the drug was in the victim’s bloodstream and the physician was aware of its links to suicidal ideation, noted the BBC. In Britain, according to the piece, over 3,000 people have “complained about adverse reactions to Champix,” with nearly 200 reporting suicidal reactions, 16 attempting suicide and 10 succeeding in committing suicide.
The BBC investigation led to similar findings in the U.S. with one man creating a night-long scene of fighting with his girlfriend and with a handgun, causing an armed, police stand-off. All this occurred after the man, an Iraq vet with post-traumatic stress, had taken Chantix for only a few days. Veterans Affairs prescribed the drug as part of a study and, in that case, a Congressional investigation ensued in which the victim noted that the problem originated with Chantix, according to the BBC.
The BBC also discussed a father of three who killed himself with a shotgun to his mouth, another man who killed himself with a shot to the head, and a mother who hanged herself. All three were on the drug and none had prior psychiatric history.
As we recently reported, Chantix was linked to 10 suicides in the UK, based on information from that country’s health regulators, representing the first time officials at the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) revealed the link between Chantix and suicide there. Earlier this year, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) said it linked 37 suicides to Chantix.
Meanwhile, MedPageToday.com, also reported that Chantix has been linked with over 1,000 adverse events that include 50 deaths, in the first quarter of this year alone. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices reported that this figure now places Chantix at the “top of its list of drugs associated with serious injuries during the quarter.”
Since its approval in 2006, Chantix has been associated with 3,325 reported serious injuries in this country that include 112 deaths, the institute said, according to MedPageToday.com. Because the FDA’s post-market surveillance system is voluntary, the report may be underestimating actual figures.