Chantix Violence, Suicide Questions Lead France to Pull Subsidies

Increasing questions over serious and potentially life-threatning psychological side effects of Chantix, Pfizer’s smoking cessation drug, have convinced officials in France that the drug should no longer be subsidized in the country. 

On May 31, French Health Minister Xavier Bertrand announced that Chantix, known there as Champix, will no longer be covered by the nation’s health insurance. That means that French citizens will have to pay out-of-pocket to acquire the drug.

Bertrand linked the decision to pull subsidies directly to increasing concerns over violent and suicidal behavior attributed to the use of the drug by people trying to quit smoking.

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Pfizer officials have indicated they were surprised by the decision and are seeking clarification from European Union health officials, who had previously given the stop-smoking drug a positive risk-benefit rating.

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.

Questions over Chantix safety first gained national attention in 2007, following the death of Carter Albrecht, a popular musician in the Dallas area and a member of Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians. Albrecht was shot to death after he began violently banging on a neighbor’s door in the middle of the night. His family later filed a Chantix wrongful death lawsuit alleging that his actions were caused by hallucinations, vivid nightmares and a violent shift in behavior that started after he took Chantix to help him quit smoking.

In June 2009, the FDA added a “black box” warning 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.

In federal court proceedings, Pfizer has attempted to argue that the recent Chantix questions about violent and suicidal behavior have largely been created by over-hype in the media.

A growing number of Chantix lawsuits have been filed in courts throughout the United States on behalf of individuals who have died or suffered serious injuries as a result of a suicide or unusual behavior allegedly caused by Chantix.

In October 2009, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated the federal Chantix litigation 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.

2 Comments

  • DianeJuly 20, 2011 at 2:50 am

    I was prescribed Chantix in Nov. 2008. I did stop smoking three weeks in. On Dec. 17th, 2008 upon pulling into a parking space outside my local grocery store, I found myself terrified to go inside and be around people. Let me clarify by saying I've always been an outgoing people person so this sudden fear was not only frightening but extremely "out of character". I immediately phoned my husband an[Show More]I was prescribed Chantix in Nov. 2008. I did stop smoking three weeks in. On Dec. 17th, 2008 upon pulling into a parking space outside my local grocery store, I found myself terrified to go inside and be around people. Let me clarify by saying I've always been an outgoing people person so this sudden fear was not only frightening but extremely "out of character". I immediately phoned my husband and told him how I was feeling and we agreed I should come home right away. By the time I got home, I was worse. We checked into the E.R. and I was given a shot of Ativan to calm down and told to STOP taking the Chantix. I did. A week later it was Christmas morning and I was not myself at all. I was taken back to the E.R. and left to just deal. My brain chemistry had changed and I was exhibiting angry, violent and rageful behavior over the next 10 months until a full blown panic attack landed me in the E.R. again. I was sedated and after awaking 12 hrs. later, I was placed on a legal 2000 (72-hr. hold) in a psychiatric hospital. Long story short, after a few questions and in less than 10 minutes, I was diagnosed Bipolar. This was almost 2 yrs. ago and Chantix' new BLACK BOX warning proves how dangerous this drug really is. Chantix Agressive Behavior, rage, violent outburst.... have been reported by thousands upon thousands of people who were never "violent" prior to taking this drug. Bottom line, I am not Bipolar. I have been misdiagnosed, medicated and labeled which has caused my family and myself tremendous suffering. I was perfectly NORMAL prior to taking this dangerous drug that has stolen 2 years, my dignity, ruined relationships.... and the list goes on. QUIT SMOKING any other way- This drug sounded "too good to be true"..... it wasn't, it's been a nightmare of consequences and now I have to fight to have my false Bipolar dianosis retracted. Chantix needs to be banned, taken off the market and all those who have suffered because of it should be helped. PLEASE HELP. Diane

  • NatashaJune 1, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    My husband was prescribed Chantix in 2007 (I will have to verify) and has violent mood swings, horrific nightmares and complete loss of memory of many of the "chantix fueled rages" we endured during that time. He ruined several long term friendships due to behavior he has no recollection of, and created many gaps in our marriage. And to add insult to the (emotional) injury, he still smokes, it h[Show More]My husband was prescribed Chantix in 2007 (I will have to verify) and has violent mood swings, horrific nightmares and complete loss of memory of many of the "chantix fueled rages" we endured during that time. He ruined several long term friendships due to behavior he has no recollection of, and created many gaps in our marriage. And to add insult to the (emotional) injury, he still smokes, it had no effect whatsoever on his desire to continue smoking.

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