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Smoking-cessation drug Chantix linked to serious side effects

The smoking-cessation drug Chantix appears to be a dangerous product, with risks that outweigh its benefits, according to Dr. Curt Furberg of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. He is the co-author of a new study that shows people taking Chantix are far more likely to attempt suicide and experience serious depression than people using other types of smoking-cessation treatments.

The new study contradicts two recent government studies conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In those studies, researchers counted how many people were hospitalized for psychiatric problems and found there was no difference in hospitalization rates for people using Chantix and those using nicotine patches.

Dr. Furberg said this was not the right way to measure the extent of the problem because many people who attempt suicide, are depressed or have other serious psychiatric problems are not hospitalized and would not have been counted in the FDA study.

Dr. Furberg's study looked at data from 12 years of reports to the FDA of depression or self-injury. He found there were more than ten times as many reports of adverse events for Chantix users as there were for users of Zyban, another popular smoking-cessation drug. Even fewer users of nicotine-replacement products, such as the patch, reported serious adverse psychiatric events.

Dr. Furberg wants the FDA to restrict Chantix so that it won't be used as a first-choice treatment, but instead would only be prescribed to individuals who already tried and failed to quit with other types of smoking-cessation treatments.

Source: Reuters, "New study says Chantix raises suicide risks," Julie Steenhuysen, Nov. 2, 2011

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