Despite Dangers of Chantix, Foreign Agency Endorses Stop-Smoking Drug

A New Zealand government agency has reversed it’s position regarding the safety of Pfizer’s stop-smoking drug Chantix, despite concerns that the medication, which is marketed as Champix in that country, increases the risk of suicides, violence and aggressive behavior. The agency changed it’s position about the dangers of Chantix and agreed to subsidize the medication after Pfizer reduced the drug’s price and offered it in a package deal with other medications that regulators wanted available. 

Pharmac, the agency in New Zealand that subsidizes medications, turned down funding for Chantix two years ago due to concerns that side effects of Chantix cause suicidal and violent behavior. However, according to a report by the industry blog Pharmalot published on Monday, Pharmac has changed their position and “cautiously endorsed” the use of Champix.

Pharmac will subsidize the medication after striking a deal with Pfizer that will lower the cost of Champix from $200 per month to $130 per month.

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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.

Last month, a study published in The Annals of Pharmacotherapy highlighed the link between Chantix and violent or aggressive behavior. Researchers found several common characteristics among cases where Chantix users engaged in unprovoked acts of violence, often with no prior indication of similar behavior. Researchers found that violent and aggressive behavior ended for 93% of the subjects when they stopped taking Chantix.

A growing number of Chantix lawsuits have been filed in the United States on behalf of individuals who have suffered injuries from the neuropsychiatric side effects of 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.


  • terriSeptember 13, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    ..wait a can this be?? How/why would they REVERSE their position regarding the KNOWN dangers of Chantix??? The same dangers are STILL THERE!!! In fact, with time, even MORE cases keep coming forward to PROVE how deadly this drug is!! Something doesn't smell right here....

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