Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Chantix Linked to Traffic Mishaps

This story from the Los Angeles Times illustrates yet another danger of taking Chantix for help with smoking cessation.

[More info about Chantix follows below story.]

Drug taken to stop smoking is linked to traffic mishaps
By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar
May 25, 2008

Daniel Williams decided he’d listen to his girlfriend and his 8-year-old son and finally quit smoking, with the help of a new prescription drug called Chantix. He started taking the medication, and a couple of nights later, as he was driving his pickup truck on a country road in Louisiana, Williams suddenly swerved left.

His girlfriend, Melinda Lofton, who was with him, later told him that his eyes had rolled back in his head and that it had seemed as if he was frozen at the wheel, accelerating.
Moments later, they were in a bayou, struggling to escape the murky water, Williams said.

“Since I was a kid, never had anything like this ever happened before,” he said.
“It never happened before, and it hasn’t happened since. And all the tests I’ve taken say I have nothing wrong with me at all.”

The nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices last week linked Chantix to more than two dozen highway accidents reported to the Food and Drug Administration, saying the mishaps may have resulted from such drug side effects as seizures.

Williams said he was considering suing Pfizer. His lawyer, Kristian Rasmussen of Birmingham, Ala., said he was aware of at least one other Chantix accident, involving a deliveryman who fell out of a moving truck.

Click here for the full story at the L.A. Times.


This is merely one of the dangerous side-effects that Pfizer (the drug company that produces Chantix) failed to inform the public about. Here are some of the negative side-effects that Pfizer openly admits:
  • Nausea
  • Sleep disorder
  • Gas
  • sleeplessness
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Loss of taste
In addition, Chantix (marketed as Champix in the U.K.) has been linked to depression, suicide and other violent acts. This revealing article from New York Magazine details the author's own experience while taking the drug:

"I swallowed my first pill the next day before work... by the time I was halfway to the office, I started to feel a slight nausea coming on."

"By night four, my dreams began to take on characteristics of a David Cronenberg movie. Every time I’d drift off, I’d dream that an invisible, malevolent entity was emanating from my air conditioner... I’d nap for twenty minutes or so before bolting awake with an involuntary gasp."

"The most unsettling thing about sleeping on Chantix is that I never felt like I was truly asleep. Some part of me remained on guard. It was more like lucid dreaming, what I thought it might feel like to be hypnotized. And it didn’t entirely go away come morning. As I showered, shaved, and scrambled into clothes, I tried to shake a weird, paranoid sense that I’d just been psychically raped by a household appliance."

"For me, self-destructive fantasies began cropping up as cartoonish flights of fantasy—nagging chatter that became a little more concrete with every passing day."

"One afternoon... I began to wonder how I had succeeded in fooling myself that my life had any sort of value at all. Writing? Sure, it was what I’d wanted to do since I was 6—but at the end of the day, who cared? Maybe I should just go downstairs and leap in front of a tour bus. Or launch my head through the computer screen. All this seemed logical, but also weirdly funny, even at the time: I could see how crazy these impulses were, I could recognize them as suicidal clich├ęs. But I couldn’t make them go away."

"I’ve blacked out a handful of times before, but now it wasn’t unusual to have five or six hours completely wiped out of my memory. I’d wake up with my clothes on, music blasting, and strange half-eaten sandwiches lying on the floor that I had no recollection of buying."

So what are the benefits of taking Chantix? After all, some people do quit with it, right? From the article about the traffic mishaps, there is this woman who's been successful...

Kathy MacInnis, 44, of Kingston, Mass., said she had been smoking for more than 30 years and quit on New Year’s Day. “Without Chantix, I had never been able to quit,” she said. “It just put me in a calm place.”

Okay, so it makes you feel calm. This is important, because irritability, anxiety and nervousness are typically what smokers refer to as "cravings," so take away those feelings and the cravings can go away. But how many people are successful with Chantix, and for how long?

Pfizer boasted in commercials that 44% of people taking Chantix in studies hadn't smoked after 12 weeks. After a year, about 23% still hadn't taken a puff.

And who were the people who took part in those studies? From the NY Mag article...

A total of 3,659 people were handpicked for the Chantix tests before it came on the market, an almost equal number of men and women, with an average age of 43. Nearly all were white, and the tests excluded anyone with a history of depression, panic disorder, heart disease, kidney or liver problems, alcohol or drug abuse, and diabetes.

So, if you're thinking about taking Chantix, the benefit is that you have about a 23% chance of being successful, at least for a year... but only if you happen to be about 43 years old, white, have no history of mental or physical problems of any kind, and don't drink much alcohol.

The cost is the risk of nausea, constipation, headaches, gas, depression, disturbing dreams (aka "nightmares"), difficulty sleeping, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, and perhaps having a seizure and driving your car into a lake.

Continue to seek out more sensible and less risky alternatives to kicking the habit.

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