The parents of Carter Albrecht, a Dallas musician who was shot to death during a bizarre episode that was allegedly fueled by Chantix side effects, have filed suit against Pfizer, Inc. According to a CBS 11 report, the lawsuit claims Pfizer did not disclose the risks of Chantix or provide adequate warning of possible side effects when Albrecht began taking it in an effort to quit smoking.
Albrecht’s death occurred in September 2007, just a week after he began taking Chantix. Shortly after beginning Chantix therapy, Albrecht began complaining of vivid dreams. According to a Dallas Morning News article published after his death, Albrecht had lashed out violently towards his girlfriend on the night he died – 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.
In their lawsuit, Albrecht’s parents allege that their son’s use of Chantix played a “direct and proximate” role in his death. According to the Dallas Observer, the Albrecht’s are hoping that by filing the lawsuit, they will “remind Pfizer they have to keep the public informed of the risks associated with this drug.”
Albrecht’s parents also acknowledge that Pfizer’s attorneys will likely make an issue of their son’s alcohol use (his blood alcohol level was three times over the legal driving limit) on the night of his death. According to the Observer, they are ready for that fight, and want to see their lawsuit go to trial. They insist that Albrecht’s death was the result of vivid dreams, hallucinations and behavioral changes that had been caused by Chantix.
In July, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) mandated that its most serious safety warning – a Black Box – regarding psychiatric side effects be included on the Chantix label. According to The Washington Post, the FDA said psychiatric side effects seen among Chantix users included 98 reports of suicide and 188 reports of attempted suicide. While some of the psychiatric problems reported could have been the result of nicotine withdrawal, the FDA noted that many problems occurred while Chantix users were still smoking.
Chantix’s association with psychiatric problems has spawned scores of product liability lawsuits similar to the one filed by the Albrecht family. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has scheduled a hearing for September 24 to determine whether all federal Chantix lawsuits should be consolidated and centralized in one district as a Multidistrict Litigation.