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Chantix is a prescription drug approved to help adults quit smoking. Unlike other aids to the quitting process, Chantix contains no nicotine. Instead, Chantix is a chemical known as varenicline, which blocks the craving for nicotine and reduces the pleasure smokers get from nicotine.
The goal is to help people overcome their dependency on nicotine, rather than switch their dependency from cigarettes to gum or patches. However, in November 2007, the FDA issued a warning that the drug may cause depression and even suicidal thoughts in users. In January 2008, the FDA requesting that Pfizer update warnings to include these indications on the drug label. Because of dangerous mood changes, the FAA even ordered its pilots to not take Chantix.
How Chantix Works
Chantix works by attaching itself to the nicotine receptors in the brain, specifically the a4ß2 receptors. Because Chantix molecules are bound there, nicotine cannot bind there, meaning that smoking produces fewer rewards for the smoker than without Chantix. Chantix also stimulates production of dopamine—the chemical responsible for smoking pleasure—at a reduced level compared to nicotine, weaning people off the high they experience from nicotine.
Chantix Side Effects
Varenicline, the active ingredient of Chantix, has only one significant side effect: It also has an affinity for the 5-HT3 serotonin receptor. If the varenicline binds to this serotonin receptor, the serotonin response, like the nicotine response, is inhibited. Serotonin regulates several stress hormones, so an inhibition of serotonin reception can lead to side effects such as nausea, headaches, anxiety disorders, and changes in libido and appetite, similar to side effects seen for SSRI antidepressants.
How Dangerous Is Chantix?
The truth is that no one knows how dangerous this drug might be. Maybe there will be no significant form of depression or suicidal ideation associated with the drug. But the warning issued by the FDA is for a predictable side effect that should have been evaluated before the drug was marketed and approved.
The FDA-approved labeling says that if you experience agitation, depressed mood, or changes in behavior, including suicidal ideation or behavior, you should stop taking Chantix and contact your health care provider immediately. If you did, and your doctor dismissed your concerns and put you back on Chantix, perhaps you have a medical malpractice lawsuit as well.
If you hurt yourself or others as a result of Chantix-induced mental state changes, please schedule a free defective drug injury consultation at one of the law offices of McWhirter, Bellinger, & Associates, P.A. in South Carolina today.
With offices in Aiken, Camden, Columbia, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, and Sumter, South Carolina, our personal injury lawyers are ready to serve you.
For immediate help, call today at 888-353-5513.