A new study is causing quite a stir over Pfizer’s popular
stop smoking aid Chantix. This week the FAA announced that Chantix would no
longer be included in the list of medications that pilots and air traffic
controllers are allowed to take, due to concerns for passenger safety. Now the
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has banned the use of Chantix by
The study was conducted by the Institute for Safe Medication, a non-profit group, and linked the drug to an increase in psychotic episodes, dizziness, seizures, heart irregularity and even diabetes. Chantix
has also been under fire over reports of depression, suicidal and homicidal
thoughts, and suicidal actions.
In the last quarter of 2007, Chantix was the source of 988
reports of adverse effects, more than any other drug.
Based on adverse events reported to the FDA, the report
cites 28 suicides, 41 cases of homicidal thinking, 224 reports of heart
trouble, more than 500 reports of hostility and aggression and nearly 400 cases
of possible psychosis.
The nonprofit group concludes, “We have immediate safety
concerns about the use of varenicline (Chantix) among persons operating
aircraft, trains, buses and other vehicles, or in other settings where a lapse
in alertness or motor control could lead to massive, serious injury.
Other examples include persons operating nuclear power reactors, high-rise
construction cranes or life-sustaining medical devices. Based on
reports of sudden loss of consciousness, seizures, muscle spasms, vision
disturbances, hallucinations, paranoia and psychosis, we believe varenicline
may not be safe to use in these settings.”
Since its approval in May of 2006 the label of Chantix has
been updated twice. Earlier this year the FDA revised the label to warn of
depression, suicidal ideation, and other neuropsychiatric events associated with Chantix.
Despite concerns most experts still believe the benefits of
using the drug to quit smoking exceed the risks associated with the medication.