A recent high-profile lawsuit has been brought against Pfizer claiming that its anti-smoking drug Chantix caused a violent 2009 murder-suicide in Pennsylvania. This latest claim is just one of over 100 Chantix lawsuits filed in courts throughout the United States on behalf of individuals who died or were injured as a result of the medication.
What’s the problem?
May 11, 2011 – In what appears to be an alarming trend, a recent lawsuit was filed against pharmaceutical giant Pfizer on behalf of a former Chantix user who was allegedly driven into a psychotic rage by the medication, which resulted in a tragic murder-suicide.
The claim was filed on behalf of Sean and Natalie Wain on May 9 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, and claims that Pfizer failed to adequately research chantix and warn about the risk of possible violent side effects. According to the complaint, Mr. Wain had been using Chantix for less than two weeks when he began to experience psychotic fits of rage that ultimately led him to shoot his wife and kill himself on May 17, 2009.
This latest claim is just one of more than 100 Chantix lawsuits that have been filed nationwide on behalf of people who were injured or died as a result of the drug’s side effects. The complaints allege that Pfizer, who excluded individuals with depression or a history of mental illness from many clinical trials, failed to adequately research the adverse effects of their drug before marketing it heavily as an easy solution to help people stop smoking.
FDA Warning on Chantix
In February 2008, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a press release highlighting changes made to Chantix warning labels regarding the drug’s potential psychiatric side effects. The FDA indicated that their review of data indicates it is “increasingly likely that there may be an association between Chantix and serious neuropsychiatric symptoms.” Between May 2006 and December 2007, the FDA received the following serious adverse event reports associated with the use of Chantix:
- 227 reports of suicidal acts, thoughts, or behavior
- 397 cases of possible psychosis
- 525 reports of hostility or aggression
In July 2009, the FDA announced that Pfizer would be required to add a ‘black box’ warning – the strongest allowed by law – to the labels of Chantix indicating that some users have experienced sudden changes in behavior, depression and suicidal thoughts.
Approved by the FDA in 2006, Chantix (varenicline) is a prescription smoking cessation treatment that works by blocking receptors in the brain that are commonly stimulated by nicotine. This has the effect of reducing the positive feelings that come from cigarettes. However, reports of violence and suicidal idealizations with Chantix began to surface shortly after the drug was introduced. Chantix has also been linked to depression, severe mood swings and other abnormal behavior.