Saturday, February 19, 2011

Helping smokers to an early grave with Champix

A recent article in the Toronto Star claims the province is considering placing smoking cessation drug Champix (and possibly Zyban), on the list of drugs covered under OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Program).

Diane McArthur, who runs the Ontario Public Drugs Programs Division of the Ontario Ministry of Health, confirms that an “expert advisory committee” has given the green light to the anti-smoking drug Champix and a study of Zyban, another smoking cessation drug, is already underway. The Drug Programs Division is responsible for making decisions on what drugs will be covered under the provincial health plan.

It's estimated that covering the smoking cessation drugs under OHIP will cost Ontario taxpayers $20 million annually.

NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) products such as the patch, nicotine gum and lozenges, are not being considered for coverage under the health plan, but the Ministry of Health Propagan . . . er, Promotion announced recently that free nicotine replacement therapy would be available through family health teams to “help” up to 20,000 smokers over the next two years.

At any rate, both Champix and Zyban are reported to have serious side effects, including depression and suicidal ideation.

In June, 2008, Health Canada warned that Champix had caused “unusual feelings of agitation, depressed mood, hostility, changes in behavior or impulsive or disturbing thoughts, such as ideas of self-harm or of harming others, in some users.”

It should be noted that, among the thousands of lawsuits pending against the manufacturers of these drugs are hundreds of cases alleging actual suicides from the use of both Zyban and Champix.

And, in addition to warnings from Health Canada, and the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration), the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned pilots and air traffic controllers from using Chantix, as Champix is known in the US. It has also been banned for use by commercial drivers.

Of course, according to the anti-smoker cartel, which likes to depict smokers as social misfits with no redeeming qualities, the risk that a smoker might leap off a tall building or throw themselves in front of a fast moving train is perfectly acceptable. But then, to the anti-smoker zealots, any risk is apparently preferable to engaging in some vile, anti-social habit like smoking.

God save us from those who want to save us from the evils of tobacco, even when faced with the possibility that they may be saving some of us right into an early grave.

The Star article by Tanya Talaga was surprisingly even-handed; not at all what I'm used to from the main stream media, especially from the somewhat liberal-minded Toronto Star. There was no editorializing about the inflated body counts the zealots attribute to smoking. And, even the exaggerated health care costs associated with smoking were attributed to an unidentifiable “they”, as if the author wanted to disassociate herself from the highly suspect claim. “Smoking costs the provincial health system $1.6 billion a year, they say.”

But, what really surprised me was a column by Rosie DiManno the day following Talaga's article. “The argument that smokers put undue strain on our health system has no traction with me, not until universal medical care is denied to piehole-stuffing fat people, the promiscuous, the bareback riders, the booze-hounds, the drug addicts and anyone else whose lifestyle choices put them at risk.” Huh?

What the fuck? This woman comes across like an unrepentant smoker. How did she get a pro-smoking column past the Star's cens . . . er, editors.

Says Rosie: “I’ll pass on the prescription meds, thanks — already have a drug cabinet full of those. But smokes are a one-size-fits-all antidote for what ails you: Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, obesity, mania, anorexia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and deadline freak-out-itis.”

Shit. No doubt about it, the woman's got bal . . . er, backbone. And she seems even more pissed off at the extremists than I am. She's just more articulate than I am at expressing her displeasure. But then, that's why she gets paid the big bucks.

The anti-smoker crowd will likely be calling for her head for some of her remarks.

“Lacking the gumption to make tobacco products utterly illegal yet ever greedy for the impost they collect off the top — which is why sensible people buy their darts from guys who come into the bar toting inventory from the Indian reservation free market — bureaucratic nico-Nazis, adjusting their halos of righteousness, have perfected the practice of suck-and-blow: Smoking bad, smokers’ money good.

They know full well that we, the hounded constituency of tobacco-lovers, will continue to buy cigarettes, regardless of price. Thus, they can simultaneously take the high road — spending oodles on anti-smoking campaigns that have had negligible impact — and the low road, which is to exploit smokers as cash cow.

It’s an endless circle that . . . (ooh, perfect smoke ring I’ve just exhaled here) . . . gives the illusion of efficacy, which, boosted (or not) by the tsunami of junk science smoking studies, justifies spending more money and constantly expanding the hobnailed anti-smoking brigades: $33.8 million lavished on cessation programs and research since 2005.”

Wow. You go, girl. You can read Rosie's column here. Smokers and pro-choice advocates will enjoy it.

As for adherents of the Holy Church of the Anti-smoker . . . well, who really gives a fuck?


Anonymous said...

Bloody marvelous. Power to her elbow.

bannedsmoker said...

Excellent article. Sums it up nicely.

I have no idea how it made it past the censors, but I wont be surprised if it magically vanishes when the smokercontrol league catches it.

They are going to accuse The Star of being tobacco industry fronts, no doubt.

Eye Creams said...

It should be noted that, among the thousands of lawsuits pending against the manufacturers of these drugs are hundreds of cases alleging actual suicides

smokervoter said...

Many thanks Old Rambler for highlighting this article for me. That woman is a splendid wordsmith. I love her salty, 'screw you nico-Nazi' approach. I think I might start going that route myself with my website. The vice patrol is throwing a lot of leather lately and one good punch deserves a solid counter punch in return.

Put me on your Smoker Friendly Blogs if you feel like it, right between Frank Davis and Leg-iron. Those two guys are truly amazing.

And there's such a thing as a Progressive Conservative Party in Canadian politics? Are they semi- Libertarians? It's kind of like the Liberal Democrats of the UK, it sounds redundant to me.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

This is a gross misrepresentation of the idea behind covering Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). You have stated the cost to taxpayers for funding it, but not the billions (yes, with a b)of dollars that will be saved from not clogging the health care system with preventable, often chronic illness.
"The government" and their employees, such as those in the medical and public health fields are doing extensive research to better the quality of life in populations who are high risk to become smokers, or continue to be smokers. As a matter of fact, this year alone four public health units in Ontario are launching collaborative efforts with community groups to promote smoking cessation, and lifestyle imporovement in high risk communities.
As for the health effects of NRT drugs, I won't claim that what you've stated isn't true. However, incidences of suicide and depression are proportinately miniscule to those who experience no or lesser side effects. Many commonplace pharmaseuticals have the potential to cause harm, and this is dependent on individual body chemistry and lifestyle amongst a whole host of other variables.
While I understand your concern, I do believe it to be founded with wholely accurate, or inclusive data.

The Old Rambler said...


Physicians for a Smokefree Canada estimate direct health care cost attributable to smoking at less than 4.5 billion. The same source estimates they pay almost 8 billion in sin taxes annually, more than covering any additional health care costs. In addition, only a tiny fraction of smokers will make quit attempts using NRT, even if it is provided free. And only a small fraction of those will be successful in their quit attempt. So billions of dollars will not be saved.

It is debatable whether the quality of life is, or could ever be, improved by stripping people of basic rights and freedoms; by turning them into criminals for engaging in what is an otherwise legal activity; by using junk science and dishonest research to turn them into social lepers and by confiscating their wealth through punitive sin taxes.

As for Champix, I suppose any risk is acceptable as long as you're not the one expected to take it. Check out Dr. Michael Siegel at Boston University for his thoughts on Chantix.

Anonymous said...

While Champix can have some serious side effects, it also has much higher quit rates than Zyban or nicotine replacement therapy (patch, gum, lozenge, inhaler) and is especially more effective for heavy smokers (30+ cigarettes a day). I agree, nicotine replacement therapy should be covered as well to provide more options for those who want to quit.

It should also be of note, smokers are already helping themselves to an early grave as smoking carries a 50% mortality rate (not to mention everything else it can lead to besides death).

Champix isn't being forced on anyone, it's there if a smoker wants to try it or not just as it's a smoker's choice whether they want to quit or not.

So while Champix isn't perfect, it's the lesser of two evils.

Pick your poison.

Anne Steele said...

nior and have COPD, CHAMPIX WORKED FOR ME, and no I didn't like the side effects but it took the desire away, thank God, I wish they were paid for but buying cigs cost me more and gave the fat cats in the government more to spend on themselves.

Anonymous said...

Did you have a real upset stomach and hot and cold chills need to know. Is it worth it. The feeling is horrible