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Concerns Raised on Smoking Wonder Drug

Monday, December 1st, 2008 Concerns Raised on Smoking Wonder Drug

It has become apparent that there are concerns over what was described as a wonder drug. A tablet that has been very useful in the quest for smoking cessation with reference to an article by Samantha Poling of the BBC (27 11 08).

Indeed since the drug Champix was introduced to the UK markets two years ago there have been over 40,000 prescriptions issued. Globally we are looking at over nine million so think huge.

So what is Champix, the generic name is Varenicline, and is a prescription pill designed to help smokers stop smoking. It works in two ways. Firstly, it reduces the smoker’s craving for nicotine by binding to nicotine receptors in the brain and reduces the symptoms of withdrawal. Secondly, it reduces the satisfaction a smoker receives when smoking a cigarette.

Furthermore, In trials, 44% of the group treated with Champix had stopped smoking after being treated for 12 weeks, as opposed to 11% of smokers taking the placebo. Over the same duration, it was also shown to be twice as effective as Zyban (bupropion), the other main anti-smoking drug treatment.

Notwithstanding, the European Commission approved Champix on September 29th, 2006 as a “stop smoking” aid for adults, based on the results from clinical trials.

For the makers of the drug Pfizer - Champix, has been a phenomenal success bringing in over 883 million dollars.

However according to Poling, she was becoming aware of stories filtering through the media that severe depression was a direct side effect from the use of Champix.

Karen McGhee, from Greenock, attempted suicide within days of taking the drug. Her husband had found her hanging from the hall stairs. Karen was on a ventilator for a few days and she was lucky enough to pull through. Though she remains convinced that taking Champix was the cause of her suicide bid.

Another example is that of Omer Jama who also took the medication slashed his wrists. This for Omer was fatal. According to Omers brother who says “There was no suicide note. It was just a random act, completely out of character, that took an instant.”

The coroner did not record suicide but did go onto say that Champix was still in Omer’s bloodstream and she had researched that it had possible links to suicidal tendencies. So she couldn’t rule out that it didn’t play a part in his suicide”.

It would now be relevant to look at some of the evidence that is emerging in relation to Champix. It has been reported that there have been over 3,000 people that have complained about the adverse reactions they have experienced whilst taking this drug. Alarmingly there have been over 260 suicide related incidents of which 16 have attempted to take their own lives and more significantly 10 attempts have been fatal.

For Poling, she took her concerns to the US to seek further information. She met James Elliott, a veteran of the war in Iraq, who had been given the drug by the US Government’s department of Veterans Affairs, as part of his treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to Elliot after a few days into the course he fought with his girlfriend, he grabbed ahandgun, walked into the Washington DC night, and forced the police into an armed stand-off. He was eventually brought under control as the police used a taser gun.

James is adamant taking the drug most certainly played a part in his outburst.

More of Poling’s research revealed that Marc Grossman one of the country’s leading personal injury lawyers has launched five law suits against Pfizer and has 20 more cases ready to go. Grossman says “We have a 40-year-old man with three children who has no prior history of psychiatric problems who, out of the blue, went and put a shotgun to his mouth and killed himself.

“And another case is of a man who shot himself in the head.

“We have a woman with kids who hung herself.

“All the cases are just the most shocking, bizarre scenarios where someone just out of the blue commits suicide without any prior depression.”

Pfizer have gone on to produce a statement citing that the packs carry warnings about the reported side effects, and point out that there’s no proof the drug has any links with suicidal behaviour.

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