June 8, 2011 – Numerous reports of potentially life-threatening psychological side effects have led French officials to cancel federal subsidization for Pfizer’s anti-smoking drug Chantix. This means users will now have to pay for Chantix – known in France is Champix – out of pocket to acquire the drug. Here at home in the U.S., a growing number of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of individuals who have died or suffered serious injuries as a result of a suicide or unusual behavior allegedly caused by Chantix.
What’s the problem?
Last month, French Health Minister Xavier Bertrand announced that the European version of Chantix – known as Champix – will no longer be covered by France’s health insurance. The move came amidst increasing concerns over violent and suicidal behavior associated with the anti-smoking medication. In response, Pfizer officials have indicated they were surprised by the decision and are seeking additional clarification from European Onion health officials.
Chantix’s potential for violent psychological side effects first garnered mainstream media attention in 2007, following the death of popular Dallas musician Carter Albrecht. Shortly after first taking Chantix, Albrecht began to experience hallucinations, nightmares and a violent shift in behavior that culminated in his shooting death after he began violently banging on a neighbor’s door in the middle of the night. Albrecht’s family later filed a Chantix wrongful death lawsuit against Pfizer claiming that his actions were the result of the drug’s side effects.
Side Effects of Chantix
Chantix (varenicline) was first approved by the FDA in 2006 as a prescription treatment to help people quit smoking. The drug works by blocking receptors in the brain that are commonly stimulated by nicotine, thus reducing the positive feelings that come from cigarettes. However, reports of adverse Chantix side effects began to surface shortly after it was introduced. To date, Chantix has been linked to serious mental health events including:
- severe behavioral changes
- depressed mood
- suicidal idealization
Other less severe Chantix side effects include:
- difficulty falling asleep
- psychosomatic illness
- radical alterations in dreams
While there has not yet been an official recall on Chantix in the United States, the FDA has been pressuring Pfizer not only to strengthen the warning labels on Chantix’s packaging information, but also to conduct a detailed clinical trial to assess the drug’s psychological side effects. At Schmidt & Clark, LLP, we believe that Pfizer has a responsibility to American consumers to properly test all products to ensure the safety of their users and list any potential health risks and/or side effects associated with the medication. Until the recent FDA requirement to include a ‘black box’ warning on the labels of Chantix, they have failed to meet their responsibilities. Thus, individuals who have suffered from mental conditions sparked by Chantix use will be eligible to seek and recover compensation for their injuries.