Chantix or Varenicline, a commonly-prescribed smoking cessation drug does not raise the risk of heart attack or suicide as earlier thought, new study suggests.
The pills is among the top-selling smoking cessation drugs in the US and UK. It helps heavy smokers who are having difficulties quitting the habit by reducing both the gratifying effects and cravings of cigarettes.
In the US, Chantix has been under strict scrutiny after it was linked to heart attacks, depression, and suicide in a series of studies. It was also associated with self-harm and blackouts. Doctors even have previously recommended the banning of the drug or be used only as a “last option” because of its side effects.
But latest study suggests that smokers under Chantix medication are no more likely to experience heart attack than those who are using NRTs or other smoking cessation drug. The research from the Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal also discovered that there is no increased risk of depression and self-harm.
Researchers from the University of Dusseldorf and the University of Edinburgh, recommended that doctors should now prescribe Chantix more extensively to help smokers quit. The research studied the health information of not less than 150,000 smokers tracked for 6 months.
The volunteers had been given either Chantix, or NRTs (which includes patches, gums, and lozenges), or other smoking cessation drugs.
The research discovered that smokers taking either Chantix or other smoking cessation drugs were no more likely to experience heart attack than those on NRT. Also, the risk of self-harm or depression are not higher.
Experts have long warned smokers how continued smoking affects life expectancy. For every year of continued smoking, a smoker loses 3 months of his life. The study supports the use of Chantix as a safe and effective tool to help smokers quit.
On the basis of the findings, the researchers highly believe that Chantix has no significant negative effect on mental and cardiac health. They even encourage the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review its Chantix safety warnings, as it needlessly limit the access to this useful and effective smoking cessation drug.
Chantix, a product of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, was first introduced in the US market in in 2006. By 2014, it has produced more than $600 million. However in 2011, British studies linked it to increased risk of heart disease. They discovered that it increases the risk by 72%. And in the same year a US study claimed that it also raises the risk of suicide among users and should only be prescribed as a last option.
From 2006 to 2010, researchers found that 90% of depression or suicide and suicide attempts are related to Chantix compared to only 7% for other smoking cessation drugs and 3% for NRTs.