Pfizer's Chantix Side Effects Blamed for Musician Carter Albrecht's Violent DeathSep 30, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP
There is quit a bit of speculation that the side effects of the ant-smoking drug Chantix might have been responsible for ending Carter Albrecht’s life. Carter Albrecht, a prominent Dallas musician died a violent death earlier this month. In the week leading up to the tragedy, Albrecht had been reportedly suffering from vivid, hallucinatory dreams; a Chantix side effect.
Albrecht, a member of rock group Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians, was on the verge of promising solo music career. He had started taking Chantix a week before he died. The drug Chantix, approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) just last year, is meant to assist people who want to stop smoking. Albrecht was reportedly desperate to quit, as a doctor had told him smoking would damage his singing voice.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Albrecht began complaining of vivid dreams as soon as he started using Chantix. While the Chantix labels list “changes in dreaming” as a possible side effect of the drug, Albrecht’s girlfriend told the newspaper that what happened to him went far beyond that. She said Albrecht would awaken in the middle of the night, not sure that what he had experienced was real or a dream.
One evening, after Albrecht had a few cocktails, he started lashing out violently towards his girlfriend – something she said had never occurred before. Albrecht’s girlfriend told the Morning News that he seemed confused and terrified, and looked at her as though he did not recognize her. Somehow, Albrecht ended up at the home of a neighbor, banging violently on the back door. A call was made to 911, but before the police arrived the terrified neighbor had fired a warning shot from his rifle, which accidentally hit and killed Albrecht.
Albrecht’s girlfriend told the Morning News that she is convinced that Chantix played a roll in his death. And since the drug was approved last year, evidence is emerging that it could very well cause side effects similar to what Albrecht suffered. Since the drug was approved, reports of users suffering from suicidal thoughts and bizarre violent behavior have been cropping up in media outlets. One Chantix user told the Morning News about feeling as though he wanted die after having had a couple of drinks. Once this man stopped using alcohol when he took Chantix, he said the suicidal thoughts ended.
Side effects like nausea, changes in dreaming, constipation, gas and vomiting are prominently listed on the patient handout that pharmacies include with Chantix prescriptions. But only in small print in the original box insert is there mention of rare episodes of psychotic and suicidal behavior.
Chantix affects the central nervous system, as does alcohol. One addiction expert told the Morning News that it would not be unusual for a drug like Chantix to react poorly with alcohol. And such an adverse reaction might not be discovered during clinical trials of a drug, as ethical considerations prevent researchers from studying a drug’s interaction with alcohol.
Pfizer, the maker of Chantix, claims that there is no link between the drug and violent behavior, but the FDA said it would be investigating the role it might have played in Albrecht’s death. Anecdotal evidence that this drug does causes serious behavioral changes in some users is starting to pile up. Until more studies are done to determine the safety of Chantix, caution should be used when taking it. And at the very least, users should avoid all alcoholic drinks while they are taking Chantix.