Is the Stop smoking treatment Champix® dangerous?
Varenicline (also called Chantix® or Champix®) is a medicine developed to help people stop smoking that was put on the market in 2007. It enables 44% of the smokers to quit smoking within 3 months. It has 2 effects: it lessens the pleasure a person gets from smoking, and it reduces the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. In 2008, there were almost 500 000 patients following a Champix® treatment. But in 2011, a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal identified increased risks of cardiovascular diseases as well as depression and suicidal thoughts for Champix® patients. All over the world, leaflets were modified to better inform patients of those risks. In France, the Health department decided to stop reimbursing the pill.
The results of this study are currently being questioned. A study led by Dr Kotz that was published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine in 2015 got to a radically different conclusion. Indeed, the Champix® wouldn’t have ‘increased cardiovascular or neuropsychiatric risks’. The results of the 2011 study could have been biased. Among the possible bias, some of the patients considered in the panel study who already suffered from cardiovascular weaknesses.
However, if the varenicline doesn’t increase cardiovascular or psychiatric risks, it is well known for its important side effects. For instance, 60% of the patients suffer from sleep disorders. And the price of the Champix® remains a major obstacle, patients having to pay 70€ for a 2-week treatment.
The fight against smoking remains a major concern in France and in the world. A smoker loses on average 3 months of life expectancy every year. Active tobacco smoking is considered responsible for 90% of lung cancers. It causes 80 000 premature deaths per year in France. Namely more than 200 deaths per day.