Tag Archives: neuropsychiatric symptoms

Users of Smoking Cessation Drug Chantix Experience Increased Aggressive Behavior

Over two million people attempt to quit smoking each year in the United States. Popular methods of quitting include using smoking cessation aids, such as nicotine replacement products or anti-nicotine medications.

Common effects of smoking cessation include increased levels of irritability and anxiety as the body adjusts to the lack of nicotine.

One common smoking cessation aid, anti-nicotine medication Chantix, has been linked to abnormal levels of aggression and violence amongst its users.

Pfizer’s Smoking Cessation Aid Chantix

Chantix is a smoking cessation aid manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. First approved by the FDA in 2006, this pill is intended to reduce users’ positive associations with smoking. It works by blocking in smokers’ brains the receptors that are stimulated by nicotine. It has been used by millions of people around the world as its popularity grows. In 2007, Chantix profits reached over $883 million.

Chantix lawsuits are on the riseReports indicate many users experiencing aggressive behavior and thoughts, including self harm and suicide, and lashing out at friends and family members when unprovoked. This has even occurred for people with no previous aggressive or violent behaviors. Pfizer has many lawsuits pending against it on the basis that the company did not disclose the risks of psychological side effects.

Study Documents Adverse Side Effects of Chantix

Chantix now leads the list of prescription drugs that are associated with acts of violence.  Results of a study published in PLoS ONE medical journal revealed that Chantix played a role in 408 cases of FDA reported adverse events. The second highest rate of incident was with the anti-depressant medication Paxil, with 177 cases. Not only are the reported rates of violence the highest, but the rates are proportionate to the number of people taking the medication.

Researchers speculate that the increased acts of violence are due to extra dopamine or serotonin released to the smoker’s brain while using the prescription medication, resulting in neuropsychiatric side effects. For people taking Chantix, the violent urges begin shortly after starting, and end quickly after discontinuing its use.

In 2009, manufacturers added to Chantix packaging a warning label depicting the potential hazards, including severe behavior changes and bouts of depression. Pfizer has also been required to do scientific trials on people with these symptoms to help determine their causes.

If you or someone you know has made the decision to quit smoking, talk about all your cessation options and strategies with your doctor.

Reference: “Chantix Side Effects Linked to More Violence Than Any Other Drug: Study”

Anti-Smoking Drug Chantix Tied to Serious Mental Illness

Melinda and Kenny Peterson wanted to kick their two-pack-a-day smoking habit.

In early January, the Green Bay couple started taking three-month prescriptions of Chantix, a new anti-smoking pill. About six weeks later, they weren’t smoking at all.

But what the Petersons didn’t know was that as they were weaning themselves off cigarettes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an alert.

Chantix Causes Neuropsychiatric Symptoms

Some patients taking the powerful drug had experienced serious neuropsychiatric symptoms. And Pfizer, the maker of Chantix, had recently added a warning about these symptoms in a more prominent position in the drug’s information packet, at the FDA’s urging.

The alert was issued in early February. But the Petersons didn’t know about it until the end of March, when a friend who was a pharmacist filled them in.  By then, it was too late. About a week earlier, Kenny Peterson had spiraled into a deep depression. He told his wife he wanted to kill himself. His family checked him into a hospital psychiatric ward four days before Easter. Chantix’s safety is now under fire, as similar stories of patients with suicidal thoughts, depression and aggressive behavior surface. The FDA received reports of 37 suicides and 491 cases in which people had suicidal thoughts. The FDA also said it “appears increasingly likely that there is an association between Chantix and serious neuropsychiatric symptoms.” About 5 million people use the drug.

“I think the jury is still out on what’s going on here,” said Carlyle Chan, a professor in the psychiatric department at the Medical College of Wisconsin. “Be aware that there are some concerns about (Chantix). It needs to be watched closely.”

A Pfizer spokeswoman said the company was rolling out Chantix globally but halted advertising the drug to consumers in February. The FDA approved the drug in May 2006.

The company maintained that the serious neuropsychiatric symptoms are rare, but physicians and patients should be on the lookout for them. Pfizer said a causal relationship between the drug and these symptoms has not been determined.

“The real problem out there right now is smoking,” Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Joe Feczko said at a health investor conference in March.

Chantix can help shrink the global population of 1.3 billion smokers, he said, thus addressing health problems such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. In 2007, Chantix brought in $883 million in revenue.

Chantix, known generically as varenicline, works by blocking nicotine receptors in the brain. When people smoke, nicotine attaches to receptors and the brain releases the chemical dopamine, which gives pleasure. Chantix activates the receptors and blocks nicotine from attaching to them.

Before You take Chantix Be WarnedThe drug now includes a mention of possible serious neuropsychiatric symptoms in a warning section of the printed information that accompanies each prescription and is folded inside the packaging. Previously, the information was in a less prominent place in a section of the drug’s literature in which “adverse events” were reported. But there is no requirement to put the warning on the actual package because the FDA hasn’t mandated it.

None of this is comforting to Melinda Peterson, who believes that Chantix cost her family too much.

In the psychiatric ward, Kenny Peterson was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He’s out of the hospital now but can’t work, and his doctors said they wouldn’t know when he would be able to work.

“He is completely mentally ill right now,” Melinda Peterson said. “My belief is that the drug caused him to go into a manic episode. He has paranoia. He has delusions.”

Chan said it was unclear whether Chantix actually caused depression and suicidal thoughts or whether Chantix exacerbated the symptoms of people who already have some sort of depressive behavior.

The FDA reported that it has seen both types of situations – some in which patients had no history of depression, and cases in which depression previously was an issue.

Source: Ellen Gabler,  journalsentinel.com