Chantix Insanity Defense Fails to Sway Jury in Murder Trial

A Colorado jury has rejected a woman’s claim that side effects of Chantix, a popular stop-smoking drug, were to blamed for her going on a Christmas season shooting spree, leaving her stepmother dead and stepsister with multiple gunshot wounds.¬†

Christina Wanda Sears, 46, was convicted of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and a number of other charges on August 18, in connection of the shooting death of Eleanor J. Sears and the shooting of Joy L. Pigon in 2009, days before Christmas.

Defense attorneys argued that Sears suffered from temporary insanity from Chantix, a smoking cessation drug manufactured and sold by Pfizer. Chantix side effects have been linked to a risk of sudden, violent and sometimes deadly hostility and rage among some users.

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Following trial, an Adams County District Court jury determined that Sears was criminally guilty, resulting in a life sentence for murder and a consecutive 48 year sentence for attempted murder. Prosecutors argued that Sears killed her 74 year-old stepmother and shot her stepsister nine times as a result of being cut out of her inheritance, not as a result of Chantix insanity.

Chantix (varenicline) was approved in the United States by the FDA in 2006, and works by reducing the positive feelings that come from cigarettes, blocking the receptors in the brain commonly stimulated by nicotine. However, the medication has been associated with an increased risk of neuropsychiatric injuries leading to behavioral changes, depression, aggression, agitation, hostility, rage, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and, in many cases, successful suicide. It also may increase the risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.

Hundreds of individuals throughout the United States are currently pursuing a Chantix lawsuit against Pfizer over serious injuries or death caused by suicide attempts or unusual, agressive behavior caused by Chantix. The complaints allege that Pfizer failed to adequately research the side effects of Chantix on people with mental illness and depression before releasing the medication.

Experts say that people suffering from depression and mental problems are more likely to smoke and more likely to have difficulties quitting on their own. However, Pfizer allegedly ignored FDA recommendations for Chantix testing on people with psychological problems.

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