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Posted by on Nov 8, 2008 in At TMV | 3 comments

Chantix: Smoking Cure Sounds Worse Than the Problem

When I saw this ad this morning I was struck that it seemed there was more warning than ad. (Timing it I get roughly 50 seconds of promo to 40 seconds of spooky warning.)

Then the clincher: The big brag for all this risk is that 44% of people quit smoking “at the end of” 12 weeks vs. 18% for the placebo. That risk/reward ratio doesn’t sound good to me!

I had never heard of the drug. A couple Google searches got me to sponsored links like, and this October 23 WSJ Online report.

It appears the Food and Drug Administration may upgrade warnings after a spate of road-traffic accidents and seizures involving people on the drug:

Pfizer, which has been struggling to overcome nearly a year of negative publicity involving Chantix, questioned the report’s conclusions. It noted that the institute’s figures are based solely on voluntary reports by doctors and others of incidents that occurred with patients taking the drug. Pfizer said these reports “are often unverifiable and lack sufficient medical information to draw any conclusions.”

Doesn’t that sound eerily like what we used to hear from cigarette companies?

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  • mikeyes

    Chantix is a fairly new medication and as “stop smoking” drugs go, pretty effective. The problem is that most drugs are tested on a total of about 6000 patients before they are allowed to be marketed. Mostly this establishes safety and efficacy but does not look at the rare side effects. In a group of 6000 people a side effect that only happens 2 percent of the time might not even show up and would not be significantly greater than placebo. But after a few million people take the drug these side effects (and off label uses, I might add) start to show up. The problem was not that the drug company didn’t know about the mood changes that seem to be induced by Chantix (which they did not, initially), but that they had such a good selling drug that they wanted to avoid the problems brought on by FDA intervention as long as possible. In the real world the drug company is usually the first to know about the rarer side effects because individual physicians report to them via a mechanism that the companies set up.

    In the case of Chantix, there were reports about mood changes in patients with mood disorders almost right off the bat. The drug company dismissed the early reports, but after there were enough of them the FDA took some action.

    A combination of negative motivation on the part of the drug company coupled with a strong profit from the drug usually delays the reporting, but the use of internet specialty groups passing the word on (in my specialty, psychiatry, at least) promoted more vigorous reporting on the part of physicians and some reluctance to dispense the medication in spite of what was a very effective drug. The use of the internet and the almost instant reaction of on line groups is partially responsible for bringing this problem to light so fast. In other times it would have taken forever to get the information to those who need to take action.

  • denisedh

    Your title is right on the money. I saw the ad and was reminded of the “Happy Fun Ball” ads on SNL. “Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.”

  • RenealaCarte

    I tried this stuff a while ago and it does work, if you really want to stop smoking. It is amazing how the cravings seem to be gone. The only side effect I noticed was that I got an upset stomach for a while after taking the pill. No mood changes or any of the other stuff mentioned.

    I’d say 18% vs 44% (more than double) is a pretty good result.

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