Chantix, a drug aimed at helping people quit smoking, may cause serious mental health side effects in more people than previously recognized, according to a new study.
The findings suggest the negative side effects may be too much for first-time quitters. Researchers aren't saying the drug isn't useful, rather they support using Chantix as a last option.
The drug (also called varenicline), produced by Pfizer, has a history of troubling side effects, but it has been difficult to determine whether the drug actually increases users' risks of committing suicide or becoming more depressed.
What if people who turn to the treatment are more predisposed to depression to begin with? How does Chantix compare to other smoking aids?
That's what the most recent study tries to parse through. Researchers looked at FDA data between 1998 and 2010 in which people reported adverse side effects for three smoking cessation treatments, one being Chantix. Data also included cases from using bupropion, an antidepressant used for smoking cessation, as well as nicotine replacement products (such as patches and gums).
Researchers compared the number of suicides, self-injury cases and reports of depression to other serious side effects of each treatment. Of the total 13,243 adverse drug effect reports, roughly 3,250 of them involved suicidal behavior, self-injury or depression. And of those cases, 90 percent were traced back to Chantix.
In other research, some people reported negative effects while they continued smoking, indicating it was the drug — not smoking withdrawal — that might be responsible.
On the drug's PubMed page, a warning at the top of the entry states that some people experience negative side effects on the drug, including depression or suicidal thoughts. Chantix also has a black box warning, one of the most serious labels put forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Because Chantix can cause issues for people without a history of mental health disorders, patients should be cautious about taking the drug before trying other ways to quit smoking. The U.S. government offers initial resources for people interested in kicking the habit.
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