According to ABC News, scientists say the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should take warnings about the stop-smoking drug Chantix up a notch, citing data showing that the drug increases suicidal behavior and depression far more than other drugs and methods designed to help smokers quit.
Chantix, also called varenicline, has been hotly debated since 2007, when experts first raised questions about the long-term safety of the drug and its connection to cardiovascular problems and vision lapses. Since then, studies have reported that patients taking Chantix are at increased risk of depression and suicidal thoughts. Anecdotally, patients report wild dreams, inexplicable violent behavior and other psychological disturbances while on the drug.
In 2009, the FDA placed a “black box” warning label on Chantix and another drug, Zyban, cautioning doctors and patients about the risk of depression, hostility and suicidal thoughts.
But some researchers say these warnings don’t go far enough. On November 3, 2011, a study published in the journal PLOS ONE continued to sound the alarm against Chantix and urged the FDA to update Chantix’s warning label, saying the psychological risks of the drug exceed those of nicotine replacement drugs or even its competitor, Zyban.
Dr. Curt Furberg, a professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and one of the study’s authors, said people trying to kick their tobacco habit generally are at higher risk for psychological symptoms, but Chantix makes them far worse.
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Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability and death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking results in more than 480,000 premature deaths in the United States each year—about 1 in every 5 U.S. deaths—and an additional 16 million people suffer with a serious illness caused by smoking. In fact, for every one person who dies from smoking, about 30 more suffer from at least one serious tobacco-related illness.
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are battery-powered devices that deliver nicotine without any combustion or smoke. These devices have generated much publicity among the smoking-cessation community and support from dedicated users; however, little is known about the efficacy of the device as a smoking-cessation tool.
The primary finding of an online survey was that the 6-month point prevalence of smoking abstinence among the e-cigarette users in the survey sample was 31.0% (95% CI=24.8%, 37.2%). A large percentage of respondents reported a reduction in the number of cigarettes they smoked (66.8%) and almost half reported abstinence from smoking for a period of time (48.8%). Those respondents using e-cigarettes more than 20 times per day had a quit rate of 70.0%. Of respondents who were not smoking at 6 months, 34.3% were not using e-cigarettes or any nicotine-containing products at the time.
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