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What a Wonder Drug

We all agree smoking is terribly bad for you.  So, apparently, is taking this smoking cessation drug called Chantix that you see advertised on TV all the time.  Do people actually listen to the side-effect warnings on these commercials?

The drug manufacturer, Pfizer, apparently has some very worried lawyers.   Perhaps it’s the two warnings that were issued by the Food and Drug Administration in 2008.

The Chantix commercial I was watching is a testimonial from a kindly, slightly meek 50-something guy who appears to be sitting in a garage workshop of some kind in his home.  He’s shining up motorcycle parts and attaching them to his Harley.  As the commercial continues and the health warnings start popping up on the screen, I become aware that it’s just possible this man’s family has purposely locked him up in the garage to keep him from being a danger to himself and others.

Some people have had changes in behavior, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, and suicidal thoughts or actions while taking or after stopping Chantix.  If you notice agitation, hostility, depression or changes in behavior, thinking or moods that are not typical for you, or if you develop suicidal thoughts or actions, stop taking Chantix and call your doctor right away. Talk to your doctor about any history of depression or other mental health problems which can get worse while taking Chantix.

Ok, so there are a few mental side effects.  Uh, physiological ones too:

Some people can have allergic or serious skin reactions to Chantix some of which can be life threatening. If you notice swelling of face, mouth, throat or a rash stop taking Chantix and see your doctor right away.  Tell your doctor which medicines you’re taking as they may work differently when you quit smoking. Chantix dosing may be different if you have kidney problems.  The most common side effect is nausea.

And then, for good measure, back to the creepy psychological effects:

Patients also reported trouble sleeping and vivid, unusual or strange dreams.  Until you know how Chantix may affect you, use caution when driving or operating machinery.

The 50-something guy in the garage, I notice, is not technically operating machinery; he just seems to be adding parts to it.  He pronounces that his 14 year old son is very happy he has quit smoking. In fact, he repeats later in the commercial that his whole family is happy he quit smoking.  I begin wondering what kind of people these are who seem to favor trading off a few more years with crazy ol’ Dad for putting up with hostility and agitation and the possibility he may off himself.

But- wait- there’s more.  A few additional items from Pfizer’s Chantix web site add some disturbing detail you don’t hear in the TV spot.  Turns out the skin reactions include swelling, redness and peeling of the skin.  And the allergic reactions can include swelling of the face, mouth, and throat that can cause trouble breathing.  In addition to nausea and sleep problems there’s also gas, constipation and/or vomiting.

Also, a few additional details on the psychological issues:  On top of “hostility, agitation, depressed mood, and suicidal thoughts,” there’s also “anger, panic, mania, abnormal sensations, hallucinations, paranoia and confusion.”

Chantix- the wonder drug!  Here’s one anti-testimonial in New York magazine from a guy who knows first-hand about the effects of Chantix.

Lawyers appear to be getting increased business- or at least they’re trying to.  The firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi has an article on their web site that also mentions Chantix patients have reported serious car accidents while on the drug. They add psychosis, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia to the mental effects.  They offer an 800 number through which they will be more than happy to represent you in any possible legal proceedings.

Yes, smoking is very, very bad, but if your family decides it’s your time to quit and hands you a bottle of Chantix, race into your garage, slam the door, set up a barricade and start working furiously on your Harley so you can make a clean getaway.  This appears to be one cure that for “some people” is way worse than the addiction.

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