Breaking News: Big pharma now offers smokers several new ways to die!


It used to be, in the good old days, when you smoked heavily and for lengthy periods, you could likely die a long painful death from, say, lung cancer or maybe emphysema.  No longer, thanks to America’s big pharma. Now, if you smoke, you have choices on how to die. Some, even by your own hand.

The choices are offered by Pfizer’s heavily advertised drug: Chantix.  Chantix is the Pfizer trade name for Varenicline. Varenicline tartrate is a prescription nicotinic receptor/partial agonist used to treat the addiction to smoking. It reduces cravings for and decreases the pleasurable effects of cigarettes. Now, that would be wonderful, except the cure to stop smoking might actually kill you – or cause you to kill yourself!

Having spent 45 years as owner of several ad agencies, I have a natural interest in commercials; and the lengthy descriptions of side effects have generally amused me (dry mouth, swelling, headaches, 4-hour erections, etc are most common).  But the Chantix commercial is over the top in its disclaimers.  I am always wary when the length of the side effects exceeds the time allotted to the benefits – and so it is with Chantix.  Pfizer generally has a very expensive extended commercial on the network early evening newscasts.  Expensive, but big pharma makes a gazillion bucks on these heavily advertised prescription drugs; well, OK, I exaggerate, maybe not a gazillion, but not much less than that.

Some of the cautions are modest, and fairly standard:

  • Nausea

  • Headache

  • Vomiting

  • Gas

  • Insomnia

And, “Changes in the way food tastes“.  Oh, well, I guess you have to put up with a bit of discomfort to rid yourself of a nasty and dangerous smoking habit.  And, if they made the food taste better than my cooking, that would be a big plus. But wait…there’s more! 

FDA Issues Public Health Advisory on Chantix

Agency requests that manufacturer add new safety warnings for smoking cessation drug The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today issued a Public Health Advisory to alert health care providers, patients, and caregivers to new safety warnings concerning Chantix (varenicline), a prescription medication used to help patients stop smoking.

On Nov. 20, 2007, FDA issued an Early Communication to the public and health care providers that the agency was evaluating post marketing adverse event reports on Chantix related to changes in behavior, agitation, depressed mood, suicidal ideation, and actual suicidal behavior.

Boy, “suicidal ideation, and actual suicidal behavior”…that can’t be good.  Maybe it is better to keep on smoking?  Or, maybe not. But wait…there’s more!

F.A.A. Bans Chantix
Less than 48 hours after FAA learned the anti-smoking medicine Chantix might lead to safety problems, it ordered pilots and air traffic controllers to stop taking it immediately.

The agency took this swift action after a medical safety group, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, released the results of a study this week that found evidence for the occurrence of seizures, loss of consciousness, heart attacks, vision problems, and various psychiatric instabilities in individuals who use Chantix

Wow…”seizures, loss of consciousness, heart attacks, vision problems”?  Where’s that pack of cigarettes I just tossed out?  Well, then again, maybe I should give Chantix a try anyway.  But wait…there’s more! More? There can’t be more? Yes, more!

LA TIMES-2008-05-25 Drug linked to traffic mishaps: The nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices last week linked Chantix to more than two dozen highway accidents reported to the Food and Drug Administration, saying the mishaps may have resulted from such drug side effects as seizures. Pfizer, the drug’s manufacturer, said that as early as May of last year, it had added a warning to the prescribing literature for Chantix that patients should exercise caution when driving or operating machinery until they know how the medication affects them.

Oh my goodness, “seizures, two dozen accidents”?  I’m not sure about all that. I might just light up a smoke to rethink this whole thing. Of course, I really don’t have to drive while I am cutting out my cigarettes.  But wait…there’s more!  More? What now?

FDA warning May 08

Healthcare professionals, patients, patients’ families, and caregivers should be alert to and monitor for changes in mood and behavior in patients treated with Chantix.
Symptoms may include anxiety, nervousness, tension, depressed mood, unusual behaviors and thinking about or attempting suicide. In most cases, neuropsychiatric symptoms developed during Chantix treatment, but in others, symptoms developed following withdrawal of varenicline therapy.

Patients taking Chantix should immediately report changes in mood and behavior to their doctor.

Patients taking Chantix may experience vivid, unusual, or strange dreams.

They can’t be serious (can they)?. “Anxiety…depressed mood…thinking about suicide…strange dreams”? I can enjoy strange dreams without having to pay for Chantix.  And some of this stuff even happens in the withdrawal of therapy. So, if I start taking Chantix I could feel nervous and tense, but if I stop, I might…kill myself? That can’t be good.  But wait…there’s more! More? No, no more.  Forget it, I’m out of here.  Wal-Mart is having a sale on cartons of Camels.