Chantix Lawsuits Blame Drug for Murder-Suicide

The estates of a couple who were killed in a murder-suicide two years ago have filed a <"">Chantix lawsuit against the drug company Pfizer Inc. this week. The lawsuit alleges, said The Post-Gazette, that Chantix prompted the rage that led to the fatal events.

Sean Wain, 34, killed his wife Natalie, 33, before killing himself in May 2009. The Wain’s had four children, The Post-Gazette said. According to the complaint, Mr. Wain had been taking Chantix for one week prior to the murder-suicide.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court and alleges that Chantix consumers were not adequately warned that the smoking cessation medication can lead to rage, hostility, and suicide, said The Post-Gazette, which noted that had no comment.

Chantix (generic: varenicline) was approved in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006 as a treatment for smoking cessation. Chantix blocks nicotine by targeting the brain’s nicotine receptors. About a year after being on the market, reports began emerging about patients exhibiting strange and dangerous behavior while on Chantix; the FDA received a number of adverse event reports and issued information on the potential risks. In 2009, the FDA announced that a Boxed Warning regarding such side effects would be added to the Chantix label.

We recently wrote that a study from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) suggested a link between some prescription drugs—including Chantix—and violent behavior. The study revealed that Chantix is a whopping 18 times likelier to be associated with “violence and aggression” versus other drugs.

We have also written that according to WebMD and Thomas J. Moore, senior scientist for drug safety and policy at the ISMP, that Chantix has so much potential danger it should contain restrictions including exclusions for police, military, and others who must carry weapons. Moore is one of three others who co-wrote the Chantix report published in the journal, Annals of Pharmacotherapy, said WebMD.

“My colleagues and I have been concerned about the safety profile of [Chantix] since our first report [warning of adverse events] in 2008,” Moore told WebMD.

Chantix treatment begins with a low dose that is incrementally increased while smokers can smoke into their eighth day, at which point, they must cease smoking. Patients remain on the drug for 12 weeks and, sometimes, can be prescribed an additional 12 weeks of the drug.

About a year after being on the market, reports began emerging about patients exhibiting strange and dangerous behavior while on Chantix. For instance, a Dallas musician on Chantix was behaving aggressively and abusively and was killed while attempting to kick in the door of a girlfriend’s neighbor. The FDA has received a number of other adverse event reports and issued information on the potential risks, mandating a medication guide be provided to patients with each refill.

Previously, the FDA said psychiatric side effects seen among Chantix users included 98 reports of suicide and 188 reports of attempted suicide. While some reported psychiatric problems could have been the result of nicotine withdrawal, the FDA noted that many problems occurred while Chantix users were still smoking. Also, as of recent data, Health Canada received over 1,200 reports of adverse reactions associated with Champix since its release in country in 2007, said The Globe and Mail.

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