A popular stop-smoking drug may be hard on the heart. The smoking cessation drug Chantix is being prescribed world-wide to help smokers give up their dangerous addiction. Smoking increases the chance that a person will develop lung cancer, several other cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cardiovascular disease. That’s why Chantix, called Champix outside the US, is considered such an important advance.
This drug does have side effects, however, including nausea, headaches, insomnia and abnormal dreams. Psychiatric reactions such as depression may be serious. The Intensive Medicines Monitoring Programme in New Zealand has identified cardiovascular complications such as angina, arrhythmias, heart attacks and hypotension. Although such events are not uncommon in smokers, the investigators identified many such events that occurred only after people started taking Chantix and in some cases went away when the drug was stopped.
The New Zealand scientists hypothesize that Chantix can cause spasm of the coronary arteries. Such abrupt narrowing of a coronary artery has been linked to heart attacks or heart rhythm changes. Patients and families should be alerted to the possible psychiatric and cardiovascular side effects of Chantix before a patient is given a prescription for this stop-smoking drug.