Chantix is a prescription medication to help people discontinue smoking. The drug has been around for several years and has been reported to reduce cravings and decrease the pleasure derived from smoking cigarettes.
Chantix is approved for use for 12 weeks and if smoking cessation has been achieved, it may be used for another 12 weeks. The success rates of Chantix are variable.
The industry reports high success rates, but anecdotal reports on cyberspace indicate that only a few people benefit. The drug is also prohibitively expensive.
In June of last year, British researchers warned that the drug might increase the risk of heart disease. The FDA then released a safety announcement that the drug may be associated with a slightly increased risk for heart attacks in people who already have heart disease.
Now researchers from San Francisco indicate that Chantix does not increase the risk of stroke or heart attacks and challenges the studies done by the British workers.
In the latest study, published in the British Medical Journal, the researchers found no significant differences in rates of heart attacks and other serious events in people who use Chantix compared to people who did not. In the UCSF study, results from 22 clinical trials involving 9,000 patients were evaluated and the drug was found to be safe. (1)
These results are a reassurance for health care providers who prescribe Chantix. So far, of all the drugs available, Chantix appears to be the most successful in helping people quit smoking.
Even though the UCSF study shows that Chantix does increase the risk of heart disease, this is not universally accepted by other clinicians and the controversy rages on.
Smoking is known to have many adverse health consequences ranging from heart disease, lung cancer, and strokes. Quitting smoking offers immediate health benefits, but the addiction is very difficult to break.
The success rates of Chantix are not high but still better than other medications. Between 19-47 percent of people who use Chantix will quit smoking.
While this is great news for smokers, this study has still not addressed the other concerns of Chantix-suicidal ideations. The FDA has issued a warning that some people may develop behavior problems and suicidal ideations when taking Chantix.
All Chantix packages come with this strong warning about psychiatric problems. (2)
For the consumer, caution should be exercised when asking the doctor for Chantix. If you have heart disease or have risk factors for heart disease, speak to your doctor about Chantix and if in doubt get a second opinion from a cardiologist.
For those smokers who do not have heart disease, Chantix is relatively safe but it may induce behavior problems.
There is no easy solution to help consumers quit smoking. Many drugs have been developed but most have failed. In addition, drugs are expensive and have many side effects.
Cold turkey still appears to be the safest and the cheapest way to quit smoking. While this approach is difficult, it still has the highest success rate compared to any medication.
BMJ. Risk of cardiovascular serious adverse events associated with varenicline use for tobacco cessation: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2012; 344 doi: 10.1136/bmj.e2856 (Published 4 May 2012)
Chantix: FDA Drug Safety Communication: Safety review update of Chantix (varenicline) and risk of neuropsychiatric adverse events. Web. May 7, 2012. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm276737.htm
Reviewed May 8, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith