Entries in Quit Smoking (14)


FDA Should Warn Smokers of Increased Psychological Dangers of Chantix, Study Says

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.) -- Scientists say the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should take warnings about the stop-smoking drug Chantix up a notch, citing data showing that the drug increases suicidal behavior and depression far more than other drugs and methods designed to help smokers quit.

Chantix, also called varenicline, has been hotly debated since 2007, when experts first raised questions about the long-term safety of the drug and its connection to cardiovascular problems and vision lapses.  Since then, studies have reported that patients taking Chantix are at increased risk of depression and suicidal thoughts.  Anecdotally, patients report wild dreams, inexplicable violent behavior and other psychological disturbances while on the drug.

In 2009, the FDA placed a "black box" warning label on Chantix and another drug, Zyban, cautioning doctors and patients about the risk of depression, hostility and suicidal thoughts.

But some researchers say these warnings don't go far enough.  On Thursday, a study published in the journal PLoS One continued to sound the alarm against Chantix and urged the FDA to update Chantix's warning label, saying the psychological risks of the drug exceed those of nicotine replacement drugs or even its competitor, Zyban.

Dr. Curt Furberg, a professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and one of the study's authors, said people trying to kick their tobacco habit generally are at higher risk for psychological symptoms, but Chantix makes them far worse.

"The dramatic increase of these symptoms is caused by the drug.  Among all the treatments we have for smoking cessation, Chantix is the worst," Furberg said.

In the study, Furberg and his colleagues analyzed more than 3,000 reports of suicidal behaviors or depression in people taking Chantix, Zyban, or nicotine replacement drugs, which were reported to the FDA through its Adverse Event Reporting System from 1998 through September 2010.  Of those reports, 90 percent were linked to Chantix.  In reports of completed suicides of people taking these stop-smoking treatments, the study said 92 percent were associated with Chantix.

The FDA is unmoved by this latest report. A spokeswoman for the agency said the drug is a safe and effective way to help smokers quit.  Additionally, the agency noted that this latest study failed to account for an uptick in reports of psychological side effects from Chantix that occurred as media coverage of the drug increased since 2007.

Pfizer, Chantix's manufacturer, also took issue with the data Furberg and his colleagues used in their study, saying that their reports of negative side effects are unreliable.

Pfizer also noted that at the FDA's request, the company is conducting a clinical trial to study the link between Chantix and psychological side effects.  The results are expected in 2017.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Studies Show Smokers Are Smoking Less

Peter Dazeley/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) - Fewer American adults are smoking cigarettes, according to a new Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The report also says that daily smokers are smoking fewer cigarettes each day.

The report covers data from 2005 to 2010 and shows an estimated 19.3 percent of American adults, aged 18 and older, continue to smoke, marking a decline from 20.9 percent in 2005.

CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. says that although any decline in the number of smokers is a step in the right direction, tobacco use still remains a significant health burden for the people of United States.

The data from CDC’s National Health Interview Survey show fewer American adults are smoking. However, the rate of the decline between 2005 and 2010 is slower than in the previous five-year period.

Tim McAfee, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC Office on Smoking and Health, says the slowing trend shows the need for more intensified efforts to reduce cigarette smoking amongst adults, and points to the success of efforts such as higher tobacco prices, aggressive media campaigns and graphic health warnings, to name a few.

Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke kill an estimated 443,000 Americans each year. 

In addition to the loss of human life, the CDC also reports smoking costs about $193 billion annually in direct health care expenses and lost productivity.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Use Chantix to Quit Smoking and Risk Your Heart?

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) -- On the heels of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's admission that Chantix, Pfizer's smoking cessation drug, may aggravate heart problems in those with cardiovascular disease, new research suggests that they're not the only ones at risk.

Chantix may in fact increase the risk of heart attack and other adverse events for those with a clean bill of cardiovascular health.

Though concerns over Chantix's effect on the heart were raised during the drug's approval process in 2006, the FDA's recent move to include a cardiovascular warning in the drug's safety information marks the first time the organization has publicly discussed such potential risks.  It's a move that is a long time coming for Dr. John Spangler, co-author on the new research, a meta-analysis published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Since 2007, Spangler, director of Tobacco Intervention Programs at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has been attempting to get the word out concerning possible cardiac and other safety concerns for those taking Chantix, but his prescient warnings were largely ignored until recently.

"I had spoken to JAMA and LANCET and people from Pfizer, and emailed the FDA, and no one was very interested or concerned about the things I was finding," Spangler says.

Spangler's meta-analysis, done with lead author Dr. Sonal Singh, an assistant professor of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, could stir concern too loud to be pushed aside, however, especially in light of the FDA's reconsideration of Chantix's safety profile.

Study authors looked at 14 past studies of Chantix and found that overall, people on the drug had a 72 percent increased risk of being hospitalized with a heart attack or other serious heart problems when compared with those taking a placebo.

"In the proportion of smokers that had never had heart disease, we saw an even greater risk of adverse events, about 150 percent increased risk," says Singh.

"The main goal of smoking cessation is to reduce the risk of heart attack that comes with being a smoker, but this drug is doing the exact opposite.  It's increasing the risk of what they're trying to avoid," Singh says.

The most "frustrating" part, he adds, is that the Food and Drug Administration found an increased risk for cardiac events back in 2006, "but they did not warn patients or physicians at that time that it may be a risk. They didn't put it on the label," Singh says.

According to the FDA, however, the data Singh refers to was too inconsistent to warrant a label mention -- until recent studies suggested it might be true.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


MRI Scan Could Predict Ability to Quit Smoking

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) - Researchers may be able to predict how likely you would be to quit smoking by taking a scan of your brain, reports Discovery News.

The study, published in the journal Health Psychology, says that by performing an MRI scan, a doctor can study activity in the region of the brain tied to behavior. Researchers showed 28 heavy smokers "quit smoking" commercials and monitored activity in the medial prefrontal cortex of their brains. Those with activity in the region were "significantly linked to reductions in smoking behavior" in the following month.

"What is exciting is that by knowing what is going on in someone's brain during the ads, we can do twice as well at predicting their future behavior, compared to if we only knew their self-reported estimate of how successful they would be or their intention to quit," said lead author Emily Falk, director of the Communication Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Michigan.

Falk said the research could also help show what non-smoking ads would be most effective in getting smokers to quit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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