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Smoking Cessation Drug Chantix Doesn’t Cause Suicide, Say Researchers

posted 11:46 PM EST, Sun October 04, 2009
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Smoking Cessation Drug Chantix Doesn’t Cause Suicide, Say Researchers © Photo Credit: Mark Sebastian

British researchers found no strong evidence that links Chantix to an increased risk of suicide or self harm, despite an FDA advisory against the medication.

Chantix (Varenicline) works by reducing the enjoyment felt when smoking and diminishing the severity of nicotine withdrawal symptoms. It is arguably the most effective medication in helping people quit smoking, but warnings from the FDA and other medical organizations about an increased risk of suicide and self harm have tarnished its reputation – possibly without valid grounds.

Researchers at the University of Bristol and the UK Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency investigated this risk towards self harm and suicide amongst those taking Chantix. The researchers sorted through data from more than 80 000 people prescribed a quit smoking product from 2006 and 2008, and using these electronic patient database records, looked for any incidence of self harm or suicide from the time of first use of a quit smoking product to 3 months following the last filled prescription.

They found that the Chantix caused no strongly greater risks of suicide or self harm than did other commonly available smoking cessation products, such as nicotine replacement delivery systems (the patch or nicotine gum) or buproprion (Zyban).

They say that due to the limited power of their study they cannot absolutely rule out an increased risk of suicide or self harm associated with Chantix and call for further research to confirm their safety findings. They say that in any case, the limited risks of suicide must always by weighed against the significant benefits of quitting smoking and Chatix’s effectiveness as a smoking cessation aid.

The full research data can be examined in the British Medical Journal.

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