Anti-Smoking Drug Chantix Linked to Heart Attacks, Strokes

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July 5, 2011 – According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Pfizer’s popular smoking cessation drug Chantix may increase the risk of suffering a cardiovascular event by more than 70%. The research comes just three weeks after the FDA issued a press release warning the public that Chantix may cause heart attacks and other cardiovascular events in users with heart disease. Chantix is commonly considered one of the most dangerous drugs on the U.S. market, having been associated with more adverse event reports than any other prescription medication.

What’s the problem?

The new study, which was published this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, involved a number of double-blind controlled studies of individuals who took Chantix (varenicline) and were later found to have suffered a cardiovascular event. The research concluded that Chantix users were some 72% more likely to suffer serious heart problems than those who took a placebo. According to the study’s authors, the evidence is so strong that the FDA should consider pulling the drug off the market altogether.

Last month, a study linking Chantix to heart attacks and other cardiovascular events in patients with heart disease prompted the FDA to strengthen the drug’s warning label and prescribing information. Additional side effects named in the Chantix warning include angina pectoris, nonfatal myocardial infarction, and the need for coronary revascularization. The new information seems to extend this risk to Chantix users with no history of heart disease.

The cardiovascular risk from Chantix is just the latest in a long list of extremely serious side effects associated with the controversial smoking cessation drug. In 2009, warnings about the risk of serious and potentially life-threatening psychological side effects – which include suicide, suicide attempts and unusual violent behavior – were added to the Warnings and Precautions section of Chantix labels.

Chantix Side Effects

First approved by the FDA in 2006, Chantix is a prescription treatment manufactured and marketed by Pfizer to help people quit smoking. Chantix works by blocking receptors in the brain that are stimulated by nicotine, thus reducing the positive feelings that come from cigarette smoking. Unfortunately, reports of serious Chantix side effects began to surface shortly after it was introduced. In addition to the risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular events, Chantix has also been associated with the following severe side effects:

  • joint pain
  • muscle pain
  • suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • depression
  • panic
  • agitation
  • aggression
  • psychotic behavior
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome
  • liver failure
  • diabetes

Due to numerous reports of these types of side effects, French officials last month canceled federal subsidization for 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.

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