Three new Chantix lawsuits were filed last week in New York state court against Pfizer, Inc., the manufacturer of the popular smoking cessation drug. The cases were filed on behalf of individuals who claim that side effects of Chantix caused users to commit or attempt suicide, adding to the mounting number of similar suits filed against the drug maker in both state and federal courts.
Chantix (varenicline) was approved by the FDA in 2006 as a prescription treatment to help people quit smoking. The drug works by blocking receptors in the brain that are commonly stimulated by nicotine, reducing the positive feelings that come from cigarettes. However, shortly after Chantix was introduced, adverse event reports linked the drug to an increased risk of severe psychological side effects, such as depression, suicidal thoughts and other abnormal behavior.
The first known Chantix suicide lawsuit was filed in July 2008 in federal court in Indiana, by the widow of a man with no history of mental illness who committed suicide a few months after stating the medication. Since that time dozens of other cases have been filed in other courts throughout the country.
In October 2009, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated all federal lawsuits over Chantix in the Northern District of Alabama. At that time, there were 34 different Chantix suits pending in 16 different federal district courts. Since then, another 14 complaints have been transferred into the MDL, or multidistrict litigation, as tag-along actions.
The two recent New York state court Chantix lawsuit complaints were filed last week in the Supreme Court in Manhattan. They were brought on behalf of two plaintiffs who allegedly attempted suicide and one woman who killed herself while using the drug. According to the complaints, Pfizer intentionally, recklessly and negligently concealed or misrepresented the Chantix health risks.
Similar allegations are seen throughout all of the suicide lawsuits over Chantix, claiming that Pfizer failed to adequately research their medication or adequately warn doctors and patients about the potential psychological Chantix effects.
During clinical trials performed before the drug was introduced, individuals with a psychiatric history or current psychiatric symptoms were excluded from the studies. As a result, Chantix problems were not evaluated among people with common conditions like depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and insufficient warnings were placed on the drug.
Pfizer has defended its popular smoking cessation drug, saying that they intend to vigorously defend against the lawsuits. In a statement released last week, Pfizer officials said that they have clearly communicated the risks of Chantix side effects.
Last year, the FDA required that a new Chantix black box warning be placed prominently on the label to warn users about the potentially life-threatening side effects, which is the strongest warning that can be placed on a prescription medication.