Thursday, July 9, 2009

Chantix, smoking cessation and unwanted help

Champix is back in the news. Or perhaps I should say “Still in the news.”

Champix (or Chantix, as it's known in the states) is a smoking cessation drug manufactured by Pfizer. The main ingredient, varenicline tartrate, works by blocking nicotine receptors to the brain and reducing the pleasure which comes from smoking..

In an October (2008) post , I noted that both Health Canada and the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) had issued alerts advising that serious neuropsychiatric symptoms had occurred in patients using the drug including the possibility the drug could lead to suicidal ideation and may have been responsible for a number of suicides and attempted suicides.

On July 1, 2009 came news that the FDA had strengthened their warning. “The FDA has mandated a " Black Box Warning" requiring Pfizer Inc., manufacturer of Chantix, to strengthen warnings about the health risks and dangers associated with using the drug. The FDA Advisory also requires new "Black Box" warnings to be included on packages of another smoking cessation drug, Zyban (buproprion).”

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned pilots and air traffic controllers from using the drug. Commercial drivers were also banned from using Chantix last year.

But, despite the potential for adverse reactions to Champix, the pharmaceutical industry (and the Tobacco Control industry) tout the benefits of both these drugs as aids to smoking cessation. And, they (correctly) point out that millions have used the drug with no discernible adverse consequences.

A cynic might point out that, since it's only smokers who will use drugs such as Champix and Zyban, only smokers are at risk. Which leads to the conclusion that smokers lives are expendable, and any risk is acceptable if it helps smokers quit the habit.

But, as long as use of the drug is a matter of choice, and consumers are made aware of the possible dangers inherent in the drug, then there's no foul . . . right?

Wrong. Intense social and economic pressure is being applied to smokers in an effort to force them to quit. Draconian smoking bans limit the number of social venues in which a smoker feels comfortable. Punitive levels of tobacco taxation severely impact the finances of the most vulnerable members of society.

There is a growing list of employers demanding their employees be non-smokers, efforts to declare residential apartment buildings smoke-free and a host of other measures designed to de-normalize smokers. All are coercive measures which have a tendency to curtail freedom of choice.

For example, smokers faced with the prospect of losing their jobs or seniors faced with the prospect of losing their subsidized apartment if they continue to smoke will be very susceptible to the ultimatum to “quit or else”. And, given the severe consequences of either scenario, they could easily be coerced in using suspect smoking cessation drugs against their better judgment.

In a November 2008 post, I noted that Dr. Gerry Brosky, a researcher at Dalhousie University in Halifax was planning a study to determine if Champix (varenicline) could be used to “help” a smoker to quit even if he didn't want to. Uh-huh. A study to determine if smokers who didn't want to quit could be given medication to induce them to quit.

In the same article, I noted that Dr. David B. Abrams, executive director of the Schroeder National Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at the American Legacy Foundation, said in an interview with the New York Times, “The real hope is that we could give pre-adolescent kids a vaccine, just like we do for childhood diseases.” Uh-huh. He was referring to a vaccine that would prevent kids from taking up the habit.

Now, this post should not be construed as a suggestion that there is a conspiracy afoot to force or otherwise coerce adults or children into taking drugs which they may not want to take. But, the de-normalization campaign, led by anti-smoker crusaders, has had a devastating effect on the social, economic and physical well-being of smokers. This deliberate stigmatization makes smokers susceptible to many forms of coercion.

And, just for the record. A December 2008 press release from Nabi Biopharmaceuticals announced it has reached agreement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on a Special Protocol Assessment (SPA) for a pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial of NicVAX. NicVAC is “the company's innovative and proprietary vaccine to treat nicotine addiction and prevent smoking relapse.” Could this be the vaccine contemplated by Dr. Abrams . . . to be administered to pre-adolescent children?

Paranoid? Maybe. I don't expect they'll strap smokers to a gurney and forcibly inject them with a vaccine or Champix.

But, it's unlikely the pharmaceutical companies are developing these smoking cessation drugs for the benefit of mankind. And, it's equally unlikely they are providing massive amounts of funding to the anti-smoker crusaders without expecting some return on their investment. The more smokers who can be forced or coerced into quitting, the greater the demand for drugs, be it pharmaceutical nicotine in the form of patches, gum or lozenges or potentially deadly drugs like Champix or Zyban.

I guess we really have little to fear. After all, the drug companies and their anti-smoker allies are conducting their war on smokers for our own good. They're determined to “help” us quit smoking whether we want them to or not.

Even if it kills us?

1 comment:

Smoking cessation drugs said...

Chantix has shown success rate in cessation of the smoking habit. Many people on chantix have experienced side-effects like nauseous feeling, headaches, unpleasant dreams, lunacy, manic behaviour, bipolarity, delirium or schizophrenia. Also fatal accidents and suicides is informed. So FDA has issued black box warnings on chantix and zyban cautioning that doctors should mitigate the use of the drug by adopting a far observant attitude and supervise the patients.