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Published on 8 May 2008

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Suicide smoking drug is approved

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The US government has issued new advice to doctors to help smokers quit by prescribing the drug Chantix – marketed as Champix in Europe – which has recently been linked with depression and suicidal behaviour.

The advice comes despite the Food and Drug Administration having received reports of 37 suicides and more than 400 acts of suicidal behaviour relating to Chantix.

Last month a coroner in Bolton said the suicide of a local man may have been linked to the drug.

The new US guidelines mention the psychiatric risks but also say the popular Pfizer Inc drug is the most effective at helping people get off cigarettes.

The guidelines mention other options, too, and highly recommend combining counselling and medication. But doctors are encouraged to talk to all smokers who want to quit about trying medication.

Consumer advocates cautioned that the safety picture on the drug is incomplete because it’s a relatively new drug, on the market just since 2006.

Another issue with the quit-smoking guidelines, released this week by the US Public Health Service, is the lead author’s past connections with Pfizer. Dr Michael Fiore, an expert on smoking and health issues, was a consultant to the maker of Chantix. But he said he cut those ties in 2005.

Three of 24 panellists who wrote the guidelines reported “significant financial interests” in the pharmaceutical industry, including speaking fees and stock ownership.

Copyright © PA Business 2008

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