Chantix Linked to Violence and Aggressive Behavior in New Study

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By: Staff Writers | Published: July 23rd, 2010

The findings of a new study seem to confirm the link between side effects of Chantix and violent behavior. Pfizer’s blockbuster smoking cessation drug has previously been linked to an increased risk of suicide and other psychiatric side effects, but this is the first to specifically examine reports of violence and aggression.

Researchers from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices published a report in the current issue of the medical journal The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, providing evidence that the use of Chantix is linked to aggressive and violent behavior, which could result in a serious injury for the user or those around them.

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 impact of the drug on the brain has resulted in a number of reports from users who experienced sudden, unusually aggressive behavior, thoughts of self-harm and suicide.

In June 2009, a “black box” warning was added to the medication about the potential risk of problems with Chantix, indicating that some users have experienced changes in behavior, depression and suicidal thoughts. Pfizer has also been required to conduct clinical trials providing more data on how often neuropsychiatric symptoms and suicide with Chantix occur and what conditions cause them.

The new study looked specifically at violent or aggressive acts or behaviors, which were not included as part of the prior warnings. Researchers studied 78 Chantix adverse event reports submitted to FDA through its MedWatch database, as well as seven other cases from other sources. They said they found several common characteristics among cases where Chantix appeared to be linked to violence or aggression.

Scientists found that the acts of violence were inexplicable and unprovoked, the Chantix users victimized anyone nearby, there was no prior indication of similar behavior and the psychiatric side effects occurred quickly; often before they had gotten to the point in their Chantix use where they had stopped smoking. Researchers found that violent and aggressive behavior ended for 93% of the subjects when they stopped taking Chantix.

In one case examined by the researchers, a 47-year-old woman who had taken Chantix for a month started assaulting her daughters and yelling at them before committing suicide by shooting herself. In another case, a man who had been taking Chantix for eight days choked his wife in a fit of rage and then hung himself. Less extreme cases include people who suddenly woke up and assaulted the person closest to them, started fights and destroyed property, often their own.

The researchers said that while there has been plenty of attention paid to Chantix suicide problems, more attention needs to be brought to the violence and aggression side effects of Chantix as well. They recommended that doctors do more to warn patients about the risk of Chantix violent behavior and that patients immediately report any strange and uncharacteristic violent urges while taking the drug.

Lawsuits over Chantix have been filed in state and federal courts throughout the United States on behalf of individuals who have suffered injuries from the neuropsychiatric side effects of Chantix, skin reactions from Chantix and for family members of individuals who have committed suicide on Chantix.

In October 2009, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated all federal Chantix lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. According to a pretrial scheduling order issued earlier this year, the first Chantix trial is unlikely to reach a jury until at least 2012.

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There Are 9 Comments So Far • (Add Your Comments)

  1. I took Chantix for approximately two weeks and finally quit immediately when I found myself being verbally abusive and mean to my coworkers. My spouse had been telling me that I acted like the devil….of course I did not really put much thought into his accusations until I kept hearing from friends and family that Chantix was making me very mean, impatient, and violent.

  2. I took Chantix for about a month. It made me feel pretty strange while I was taking it, but it got me off of cigarettes. After smoking for over 20 years I have been smoke free for 1.5 years. Chantix is not without it’s risks but it is incredibly effective.

  3. i have been taking chantix for 28 days…in other word i just made it through the “box set” and am supposed to begin my second perscription today….NOT A CHANCE…..I have been abusing chewing tobacco for 17 years now will quit… but not like this. I woke up last night choking…when i finally got my breath back…i got cold sweats and numbeness for awhile…its hard to keep track of time….either way i called my doctor and his advice is to quit… right now. I will admit that i have no desire for nicotine but we’ll see what happens when Chantix is out of my system. Man what wierd and potent little drug this is….

  4. I took Chantix for 2 months and YES it is a very bad drug. The doctor new that I had a history with depression and I was fine untill I started taking Chantix. The drug changed my behavior also and I took this drug before the warnings came out. If I knew about the risk I would of went with the patch instead. Also I paid 150.00 for chantix. So I’m depressed again and have been for a long long time. Do NOT take this drug if you have had problems with dpression it will come back! They should give me free meds for my depression and give me a refund on what I spent for chantix!

  5. I took chantix for about 2 months. It was incredible that stop me from
    smoking and cravings. I think it works great. I actually never experience
    any side effects of weird behavior, instead, it made me relax and have
    very intense dreams. The only side effect was nausea that last till today.
    People have to understand that meds have side effects and sometimes
    that is the price to quit what is killing us. Nothing ever works better than chantix. That is the truth.

  6. My husband started the Chantix about a month or so ago and he was going excellent on it, but i did notice here and there in the beginning he was somewhat edgy, I put it off that yes he is trying to quit smoking and he would be edgy..My husband has never tried to hurt me in any way i am dealing with cancer among many many other health issues i am a very sick lady,but he has ALWAYS been supportive and kind.But a couple of weeks ago we had a minor disagreement over the dish washer (silly i know) and we NEVER fight about small petty things, all of a sudden he lashed out at me with verbal abuse told me to get out of the house and was cussing at me horribly. Later on after he settled down after throwing things (which he NEVER DOES..been with him 12 yrs) i was able to calm him down and he just broke down on the way he treated me…I noticed a HUGE change in him about 3 weeks into it. I guess you would say he was getting ready to start the 2nd box when this happend. Have any women out there had problems with their husbands lashing out that normally dont? He is getting better now hes off of it (almost 2 weeks) but how long will this linger in his system? i am really trying to walk on eggshells to keep the peace and ALL I WANT HIS MY HUSBAND BACK!

  7. I am on the second box, and today I hit my 13 year old child. I punched him as hard as I could three times, because he wasn’t cleaning his room. I cannot even believe I would yell, scream, and punch my son. It was a wonderful day of church, a beautiful Easter dinner, and playing outside, and then this. The anger, and now the sadness I feel, has been overwhelming. I just bought a pack of cigarettes and didn’t take my pill tonight….

  8. Shocked…I am on the second box, and today I hit my 13 year old child. I punched him as hard as I could three times, because he wasn’t cleaning his room. I cannot even believe I would yell, scream, and punch my son. It was a wonderful day of church, a beautiful Easter dinner, and playing outside, and then this. The anger, and now the sadness I feel, has been overwhelming. I just bought a pack of cigarettes and didn’t take my pill tonight….

  9. I just ended my first 2 weeks with Chantix. I’ve been smoking for 40 years, at least a pack a day. I also take Cymbalta for depression. I know It’s supposed to build up in your system, but it did not do anything for me in 2 weeks but make me more depressed, anxious, irritable, sleepless at night, sleepy durring the day, shaky with heart palpitations, at one point I felt like I was having a heart attack! So, I stopped taking the Chantix and its going to take more than 2 weeks to leave my system. I smoked while taking the Chantix, eventhough, I did cut down a lot, I made a pack last a whole week. But, with the side effects I had and what I’ve been reading especially about people with depression taking Chantix, I don’t want to end my life or hurt anyone, I just want to stop smoking! I want a refund of the $160.00 out of pocket thst I spent on the prescription!

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