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Possible Dangerous Side Effects of Chantix

Mar 7, 2008
According to the American Lung Association, smoking-related diseases claim an estimated 438,000 American lives each year, including those affected indirectly, such as babies born prematurely due to prenatal maternal smoking and victims of exposure to tobacco's carcinogens through secondhand smoke.

Approximately $167 billion each year in health-care costs, an average of $3,702 per adult smoker. It has been shown that quitting smoking now greatly reduces risks of heart disease, emphysema, and other serious medical conditions, and several drugs have been developed to assist patients in quitting smoking.

Chantix or Champix, known also as Varenicline Tartrate, is a prescription medicine given to patients seeking to end their smoking addiction. In the past, quitting aids have mostly focused on Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT's) which use a limited release of nicotine into the body to ease cravings.

The drug operates without using any nicotine. Instead, it focuses on reducing cravings and decreasing the pleasurable effects of cigarettes and other tobacco products, specifically as a partial agonist that activates release of 35 to 60% of the dopamine that nicotine would have caused.

Common side effects of the drug include nausea, headache, difficulty sleeping and abnormal dreams. It is estimated that 5 million prescriptions have been written and Pfizer, the medicine's manufacturer, reports there are 3 million Americans taking Chantix now.

In November 2007, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) began investigating reports of depression, agitation and suicidal behavior among patients taking the medicine, after they had received reports of 37 suicides and more than 400 of suicidal behaviors in connection with the non-smoking aid. A link between Chantix and serious psychiatric complications is becoming progressively probable, according to the FDA.

Additionally, the drug may further worsen preexisting psychiatric illness or cause a recurrence of past issues. Two weeks after this report, Pfizer added stronger drug warnings to the drug's packaging, stating publicly that while a direct link between the drug and the reported psychiatric problems did not exist, the possibility of the drug-induced psychotic episodes could not be ruled out.

Pfizer has suggested that these episodes of irrational behavior have been caused by nicotine withdrawal. However, the FDA's findings stated that even those patients who had continued smoking had similar psychiatric episodes. Indeed, cases of such extreme psychiatric problems have not manifested themselves as prominently in over the counter quitting aids, such as NRT's.

The most publicized case thus far has been that of Carter Albrecht, who, after assaulting his girlfriend, was shot and killed by his neighbor who mistook him for a burglar. Some questioned the bizarre circumstances surrounding Albrecht's death, and many close to him blamed his irrational behavior on the drug. In fact, after ABC published the story on their website, they received over 200 comments on the article, the large majority of them describing similar reactions of nightmares, depression, suicide ideation, broad mood swings, and generally abnormal behavior.

Many of these cases involved consumption of a moderate to heavy amount of alcohol, but an almost equal number reported these severe side effects with no alcohol imbibed. The possibility of real serious adverse side effects from the drug, including a relationship between the drug and suicide seems more and more likely.

Considering the evidence, it would appear that the drug has produced extreme or serious effects in a larger percentage of patients than what was originally found in the FDA tests.

Thoughts of suicide, euphoric to depressed mood swings, anxiety, and hallucinations appear to be almost common in the majority of available information from patients reporting back. As such, patients taking the drug should seriously consider consulting with their health care provider about the continued use of the drug, especially in cases where patients have a history of psychiatric illness.

If you or someone you know is taking the drug, or has taken the drug in the past, it may be in your best interest to consider consulting with an expert Chantix attorney about the prospect of any Chantix lawsuit, especially as the possibility of a Chantix class action lawsuit looms.
About the Author
For more information on prescription drugs, visit http://www.LegalView.com and learn the latest on FDA drug warnings like the Chantix side effects or Avandia warnings. Also learn more about the potential for Vytorin and Zetia litigation, visit http://zetia.legalview.com/.
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