A class action lawsuit has been filed in Canada by three women from British Columbia who say that Pfizer did not give enough warning about the suicidal tendencies caused by the smoking cessation drug Champix, which is sold as Chantix in the United States.
The Chantix class action lawsuit was filed in British Columbia Supreme Court last month. The plaintiffs, Patricia Clow, Nicole McIvor and Alicia Pickering, say that Pfizer was required to give patients and doctors more warning regarding the severity of the psychological side effects of the stop-smoking drug.
Clow alleges that her 22-year old daughter committed suicide in October after taking Champix/Chantix. McIvor claims that the drug caused her to become so suicidal that she tried to ram her car into an oncoming logging truck. Pickering says she became so depressed and suicidal while taking the drug that she required hospitalization.
Chantix (varenicline) was approved in the United States by the FDA in 2006 as a prescription medication to help people quit smoking. The drug works by reducing the positive feelings that come from cigarettes, blocking the receptors in the brain commonly stimulated by nicotine. However, the drug has been linked to increased risks of suicide and suicide attempts, aggressive behavioral changes and other psychiatric problems, which have resulted in fatal or catastrophic injuries for many users.
The FDA has received hundreds of adverse event reports involving Chantix problems, leading to a “black box” warning being added to the medication in June 2009 about the potential psychological side effects. Pfizer has also been required to conduct clinical trials providing more data on how often neuropsychiatric symptoms with Chantix occur and what conditions cause them.
In October 2009, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated all federal lawsuits over Chantix in the United States. Dozens of similar cases are centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, and Chantix lawyers are continuing to investigate hundreds of other potential cases that are expected to be filed in the coming months.
The Canadian Chantix class action suit claims that Pfizer put profits ahead of public safety. Under Canadian law, if the plaintiffs prove Pfizer was negligent, participants in the class action could be awarded Pfizer’s Canadian profits from the drug, which has been prescribed to 1.5 million Canadians since 2007.