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Friday 21st October 2016

Heart risk from smoking drug

5th July 2011

Researchers in Canada say a drug commonly prescribed to help people give up smoking boosts the risk of developing heart disease and other diseases.


The study suggested that smokers should not use Champix, which is major by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, to help them quit.

The company has said it disagrees with the interpretation.

The team of international scientists carried out a review of studies encompassing more than 8,000 smokers.

Published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the report said the review had shown that more of those who took Champix, which is known in the United States by the brand name Chantix, ended up with some form of cardiovascular disease than those who did not.

Pfizer defended the drug, saying it is an "important option" in the battle against nicotine addiction.

Smoking itself is linked to a higher risk of developing heart disease.

Known by its generic name of varenicline, Champix has proved popular among doctors helping patients kick the habit, accounting for more than 955,000 prescriptions alone in the United Kingdom in 2010.

Designed originally to cut nicotine cravings, Champix has also been linked to depression and suicidal thoughts in previous studies.

The study was led by researchers from North Carolina's Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre, the Johns Hopkins medical school in Maryland, and the University of East Anglia.

It reviewed data from 14 studies looking at smokers and their incidence of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.

Most of the cases were men under 45, and 13 studies excluded people who already had heart disease.

Experts stressed that giving up smoking was still the most important thing a person could do to boost their heart health.

Of the nearly 5,000 people in the study who took Champix, 52 experienced serious cardiovascular problems, compared with 27 of the 3,308 who took a placebo.

Some of the problems included heart attack or arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm).

Champix already carries a warning from the US Food and Drug Administration linking it to possible suicidal ideation.

It also recently added a second warning about additional cardiovascular risk to people who already have heart disease after looking independently at a study of just 700 people.

The researchers concluded that healthcare professionals should carefully balance the risk of serious cardiovascular events associated with varenicline use against the known benefits of the drug on smoking cessation.

Pfizer said that Champix was still an important treatment option for people who want to give up smoking, and that patients should ask their doctors what was best for them.

UK drug regulators have received 306 of adverse reactions linked to cardiac problems since 2006. Seventeen of those cases resulted in the death of the patient.

But it warned that other, unknown factors could be involved.

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