Suicide warnings issued for 2 anti-smoking drugs

Federal drug regulators have warned that patients taking two popular drugs to stop smoking should be watched closely for signs of serious mental illness, as reports mount of suicides among the drugs’ users.

But officials emphasized that fear should not stop patients from taking the smoking-cessation medicines, Chantix, made by Pfizer, and Zyban, made by GlaxoSmithKline, which also sells it under the brand name Wellbutrin, for depression.

“Stopping smoking is a goal we should all be working towards,” said Dr. Curtis J. Rosebraugh, director of a drug evaluation office at the Food and Drug Administration. “We don’t want to scare people off from trying a medication that could help them achieve this goal. You should just be careful.”

Pfizer will add a so-called black box warning — the F.D.A.’s most serious caution — to the packaging information for Chantix…

Glaxo will expand its existing black box warning on Wellbutrin, citing suicidal thoughts by patients who use it for depression, to include Zyban, which has had only modest sales in the smoking cessation market.

Both companies will also be required to conduct clinical trials to assess the mental health risks associated with the drugs’ uses. Pfizer is already enrolling schizophrenia patients in a trial.

Because smokers and people trying to quit are statistically more likely to be depressed and suicidal, officials for both companies said it was difficult to identify the specific impact of the drugs on those risks. “Nicotine withdrawal itself can be very difficult for people to endure,” Dr. Steve Romano, a Pfizer vice president, said Wednesday.

I quit smoking when I was 22. After 10 years.

Two-and-a-half packs a day at the time. I was too demented to be suicidal while I was going through withdrawal. Had to keep a bag of pretzels in the car to munch on – to be able to drive.

So, I guess I understand. But, as an addiction, after six weeks – the only problem is with your brain. The physical dependency is over.

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