Thursday, April 28, 2011

Article on Short-Term Effects of Chantix Fails to Even Mention Severe Side Effects; Could Conflict of Interest Be the Explanation?

Despite the fact that people are dying from taking Chantix due to its nearly immediate mental health effects, a new article on the short-term effectiveness of Chantix fails to even make mention of the existence of these severe side effects.

The article (Hajek P, McRobbie HJ, Myers KE, Stapleton J, Dhanji A-R. Use of Varenicline for 4 Weeks Before Quitting Smoking: Decrease in Ad Lib Smoking and Increase in Smoking Cessation Rates. Archives of Internal Medicine 2011; 171(8):770-777) assesses the effectiveness and side effects of pre-cessation use of Chantix combined with post-cessation use of the drug, and follows patients for one month following their quit attempt.

It reports on relatively minor side effects such as nausea. However, it fails to report, mention, or acknowledge the severe side effects that have been observed with Chantix, including major psychological symptoms, depression, wide mood swings, violent and suicidal ideation, and attempted and completed suicide. The study even assessed depressive symptoms in patients, but does not report these results.

The glaring lack of even a mention of the severe side effects of Chantix is a surprising act of omission.

The Rest of the Story

However, that surprise disappears when one gets to the bottom of the article, in the fine print, where it discloses that the study was funded by Pfizer (the maker of Chantix) and that several of the authors have financial conflicts of interests with pharmaceutical companies that make smoking cessation drugs.

Regarding the research funding, the article discloses: "This study was supported by an investigator-initiated grant from Pfizer (Dr Hajek), who also supplied the study medication."

Regarding the conflicts of interest, the article discloses: "Drs Hajek and McRobbie have received research funding from and provided consultancy to manufacturers of smoking cessation medications. Mr Stapleton was formally an adviser to manufacturers of smoking cessation medications, for which he received remuneration and hospitality."

It therefore comes as no surprise, actually, to find that the article makes no mention of the fact that hundreds of patients have experienced severe and often violent side effects, that nearly 100 have committed suicide, and that several bodies which have examined these case histories appear to have concluded that these adverse effects were indeed caused by the medication.

While I find it quite sad that so many people have needlessly lost their lives due to Chantix, I find it disturbing and unacceptable that bias caused by financial conflicts of interest has most likely contributed to these deaths.

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