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Smoking Cessation Drug Chantix Gets New Warnings

March 13, 2015

Those who are trying to stop the deadly habit of smoking and using the prescription smoking cessation medicine Chantix, need to pay attention to a new safety announcement from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA is warning that Chantix, also known as varenicline, can change the way one reacts to alcohol. There have also been reports of rare accounts of seizures in patients taking the drug, and warnings about possible mood and behavior changes and abnormal thinking or thoughts.

Officials are recommending to those now taking the drug, that until they know how it affects their ability to tolerate alcohol, they should decrease the amount of alcohol they drink. They say that patients “who have had a seizure while taking Chantix should stop the medication and seek medical attention immediately.”

“The fact that the manufacturer, as well as the FDA, are conducting ongoing studies regarding the drug’s safety is another reason to be very cautious as a consumer if considering drinking alcohol while on this medication,” said Gary Kerr, chief pharmacy officer for Baystate Health.

He also noted that the course of therapy usually runs from 12-24 weeks and that it is important to note that many of the side effects experienced are the same as anyone undergoing nicotine withdrawal, making it more difficult for the consumer to link these effects to the drug.

Millions of Americans have serious health problems caused by smoking, which can be reduced by quitting. Chantix is a prescription medicine that is FDA-approved to help adults quit smoking. In clinical trials, it increased the likelihood of quitting smoking and “staying quit” for as long as one year compared to treatment with a placebo.

“Chantix is the best and most successful way we have currently to stop smoking along with the durability to keep off of cigarettes. Even though there have been some concerning stories, the data, so far, suggests that they are relatively few. It is reasonable to try the medication if there is no history of mental illness and be prepared to stop, said Dr. Gary Hochheiser,chief of Thoracic Surgery at Baystate Medical Center.

“While Chantix may have some side effects, they are nothing compared to the detrimental effects and health risks of smoking. Smoking is linked to a majority of the leading causes of death in the United States and is responsible for a large portion of our health care dollar expenditures,” he added.