Alternatives to Chantix (Varenicline) Dangerous Smoking Cessation Drug

Varenicline (trade name Chantix in the USA and Champix in Europe and other countries, marketed by Pfizer, is a prescription medication used to treat smoking addiction, by blocking the release of dopamine from nicotine receptors in the brain, just as antipsychotic drugs block dopamine.

The pill was linked to more than 3,000 reports of serious side effects per a Bloomberg report.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported in February that at least 39 people committed suicide while on Chantix. The FDA initially had cut the 10 month waiting period short by 4 months and approved the drug ahead of schedule.

The ISMP authors noted that “[f]rom May 2006 through December 2007, the FDA had received 227 domestic reports of suicidal acts, thoughts or behaviors, 397 cases of possible psychosis and 525 reports of hostility or aggression. These totals included 28 cases of suicide and 41 mentions of homicidal ideation, 60 cases of paranoia and 55 cases of hallucination.”

Even more alarming, the authors described reports of a greater spectrum of side effects beyond suicide and depression, including 224 reports of potential cardiac rhythm disturbances, 86 cases of seizure, 148 reports of vision problems, and 544 reports of loss of glycemic control (diabetes). In response to ISMP study on Chantix, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an immediate ban on the use of Chantix by pilots and air traffic controllers.

The Wall Street Journal reported: that the feds said in May 2008 that people shouldn’t be qualified for trucking licenses while they’re taking Pfizer’s smoking cessation drug Chantix, the WSJ reports.

Additional side effects include:

Nausea occurs commonly in people taking varenicline. Other side effects include headache, difficulty sleeping, and abnormal dreams. Rare side effects reported by people taking varenicline compared to placebo include change in taste, vomiting, abdominal pain, flatulence, and constipation.

In November 2007, the FDA announced it had received post-marketing reports that patients using Chantix for smoking cessation had experienced several serious symptoms, including suicidal ideation and occasional suicidal behavior, erratic behavior, and drowsiness. On February 1, 2008 the FDA issued an Alert to further clarify its findings, noting that “it appears increasingly likely that there is an association between Chantix and serious neuropsychiatric symptoms.” It is unknown whether the psychiatric symptoms are related to the drug or to nicotine withdrawal symptoms, although not all patients had stopped smoking. The FDA is aware of the highly-publicized case of Carter Albrecht who, in an apparent state of delirium, was shot to death by his neighbor after hitting his girlfriend and then trying to forcibly enter the neighbor’s house. It was reported that he had also consumed alcohol with the drug. The FDA asked Pfizer for additional cases that might be similar. It also recommended that health care professionals and patients watch for behavioral and mood changes.

On Thursday, May 22, 2008, The New York Times reported that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) had announced the day before a ban on the use of Chantix (varenicline tartrate) for both pilots and air traffic controllers, due to concerns with possible adverse neuropsychiatric effects which could be detrimental to public safety.

On Sunday, May 25, 2008, The Los Angeles Times reported that over 2 dozen traffic accidents had been linked to Chantix and reported to the FDA. Warnings had previously been issued by Pfizer regarding the risks of Chantix while driving, however these warnings have largely been ignored by doctors and patients.

On Tuesday, June 17, 2008, The Washington Times reported on its Front Page that the United States Department of Veterans Affairs was testing Chantix on war veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder without properly warning them of the side effects, and that in one case a veteran was almost killed when he had a psychotic episode and threatened police officers.

May 22, 2008 the warning came from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which oversees the interstate trucking and bus industry. A day earlier, the FAA (Federal Aviation Association) said pilots and air traffic controllers shouldn’t take the drug reports the Wall Street Journal.

Also in May 2008 a nonprofit group called the Institute for Safe Medication Practices issued a report that suggested the drug could be linked to health problems including seizures and heart trouble. Pfizer says those issues are already reflected on the drug’s label as “infrequent” or “rare,” and are common in a drug that’s been used by millions of people. What a justification! The take no responsibility!

The drug, which was launched in 2006 and initially looked like a much-needed success for Pfizer, has faced much scrutiny for potential psychiatric side effects. Since the drug was linked in February 2008 to a potential risk of suicidal thinking, their U.S. prescriptions sales have fallen 33%, Bloomberg reported May 22, 2008.

Patient Feedback:

  • “I had to stop taking chantix. The side effects I was experiencing were miserable. I am not a “sensitive” person when it comes to medications. But it seems I experienced all the “common” side effects plus some other obscure ones too. I started taking Chantix with two other co-workers SIX months ago. Both are STILL on it but both still cheat every now and then–so I don’t view them as “success” plus — and I am not trying to see into their behavior — but everyone thinks they are both now a little off. Some even joke that they need to start smoking. All of us experienced altered sense of smell and taste. And all of us experienced a sense of anxiety too.

For me the side effects were worse than anything I experienced with withdrawal from nicotine cold-turkey. The worse side effect for me was that after my first three weeks of taking chantix, I got period. I haven’t gotten a period in years—my uterus was totally surgically ablated. I got it again the following month and then I quit the chantix. Though I can’t prove it, I am convinced that the Chantix caused it. Off chantix thing are normal now.

For me, the side of effects of chantix arn’t worth it. AND it never really stopped or curbed my desire to smoke….it just made my senses feel miserable …. even eating was gross…any scent–even pleasant smells like flowers, cooking, etc became uggy.

Even according to the Pfizer web site it states, “Smoking cessation, with or without treatment, is associated with nicotine withdrawal symptoms.” So with that said, I’d rather suffer from JUST good ol’ fashion nicotine withdrawl than nicotine withdrawal WITH chantix side effects.”

  • “Hi, My name is Viki and I’ve had severe problems when I went off of Chantix. I quit cold turkey, and I went through what I thought was a heart attack, anxiety attack or just a huge case of the crazies!! I was put back on the Chantix by my doctor for 2 weeks and then did a LONG, SLOW, WEAN!!!! It took me a little over a month, but I became Chantix free. I do feel that Chantix was somewhat addicting too…”

WHAT HELPS?

Drinking lots of water flushes out toxins.

Exercise, fresh fruits and vegetables (and fresh juices), vitamins, minerals, and herbs reduce cravings and irritation.

Spirulina (blue-green algeae) and chlorella (green algae), low-fat and high-fiber foods speed detoxification and maintain energy.

Eat several leafy green salads daily, snack on fruits, vegetables, whole unsalted (preferably organic) nuts and seeds. Eating fish more than twice weekly limits tobacco damage. Avoid sugar, caffeine, alcohol, junk food.

Vitamin E (400–800 IUs) protects tissue and cell membranes.

Selenium (200–300 mcgs.) supports vitamin E and reduces cancer risk. Note: take one half-hour before or after vitamin C to optimize absorption.

Vitamin A reduces cancer risk and supports tissue health. Beta-carotene protects smokers against lung cancer.

Smoking depletes vitamin C. Take 500–2,000 mgs. 4Xdaily.

Zinc (50–80 mgs. daily) protects tissue, mucous membranes, and reduces toxicity. Balance zinc with copper (15:1 ratio), e.g., if taking zinc 60 mgs., take copper 4 mgs. (Note: Do not exceed 100 mgs. of zinc daily).

Smoking destroys B vitamins. B12 decreases cellular damage. B3 (niacin) opens circulation constricted by nicotine and lowers cholesterol. B5 (pantothenic acid), especially with vitamin C, protects against stress. Take folic acid (1–2 mg. daily). Choline nourishes the brain.

Coenzyme Q10 (200 mgs. twice daily) aids detoxification and protects your heart.

Magnesium and calcium calm nerves (minimum: 1 gram each).

Vitamins C (5-20 grams in divided doses) eliminates toxins and builds healthy tissue.

L-cysteine (amino acid) with thiamine and vitamin C protect lungs and reduce coughs. Glutathione, formed from L-cysteine, acts as an antioxidant.

Valerian and skullcap (herbs) calm nerves and reduce cravings.

Massage therapy speeds detoxification.

Homeopathy

Ask for Stop It Smoking by Natra Bio.

Aromatherapy

Nicotiana, Sagebrush, Angelica, Chamomile, Chaparral and Lavender help withdrawal and soothe frayed nerves.

Fasting

Want to get it over with as soon as possible? Consider a 5-day fresh juice fast (not bottled) to quickly remove nicotine. But fresh juices help even with food.

Post your healthy alternatives here by posting a comment.

This is not an endorsement for any smoking cessation drug. They all have side effects.

Also see my article on Zyban.

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One Response to “Alternatives to Chantix (Varenicline) Dangerous Smoking Cessation Drug”

  1. Denise Says:

    That is strang i read side effects from chantix because i am on it and had some of the same i was going through the change life cycle and did not have a period for 6 months and the day i started chantix i got one.i thought it was odd this happen.I am on day 6 and still smoking strong because im not getting the relief from smoking.I miss the the caleming effect it gives me.I feel my life has changed in a sense with smell and taste.Im not sure if i want to continue with this but i truely want to quit.


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