The anti-smoking drug Chantix has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. Now here is one more blow to the drug’s reputation — it may cause an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. The problem was summarized in a recent New York Times article. Here are exerpts:
Chantix, the best-selling prescription drug for smoking cessation, was linked to an increased risk of a heart attack, stroke or other serious cardiovascular event for smokers without a history of heart disease compared with smokers who did not use the drug, according to a Canadian medical journal report released on Monday.
The finding added to previous warnings about the pill’s connection to psychiatric problems and cardiovascular risks for people with a history of heart disease.
It posed a new challenge to a product that has been prescribed to 13 million people and had $755 million in sales last year.
The senior author of the new report, Dr. Curt D. Furberg, a Wake Forest medical professor, said there were better ways to quit and called for removal of the drug from the market. “It piles up,” he said. “I don’t see how the F.D.A. can leave Chantix on the market.”
The lead author, Dr. Sonal Singh, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, said the agency and Pfizer had failed to pursue signs of cardiovascular risk since Chantix was approved in 2006.“The F.D.A. should have already put it on their warning label,” Dr. Singh said. “The risk is substantial, the risk is present in smokers without heart disease, and Pfizer knew about this for five years.”
Last month, the agency issued a safety notice about cardiovascular risk from Chantix use by people with a history of cardiovascular disease, based on a study of 700 people.
The new report is broader, analyzing 14 randomized clinical trials involving 8,200 patients, excluding those with cardiovascular disease so that it gives a better picture of which heart problems the drug could cause in otherwise healthy people trying to quit smoking.
“We have known for many years that Chantix is one of the most harmful prescription drugs on the U.S. market, based on the number of serious adverse effects reported to the F.D.A.,” Dr. Furberg said in a statement. “It causes loss of consciousness, visual disturbances, suicides, violence, depression and worsening of diabetes. To this list we now can add serious cardiovascular events.”