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Chantix: troubling history, proliferating concerns

Imagine that a loved one with a long and medically documented history of mental illness coupled with psychiatric side effects also has a strong nicotine addiction that he seeks to curb.

He goes to the family doctor, who quickly and after only momentary consultation prescribes the anti-smoking medication Chantix.

Your relative duly begins taking the drug as prescribed and shortly thereafter commits suicide.

Can family representatives file a wrongful death claim alleging medical malpractice against the doctor for failure to adequately balance the benefits of Chantix against the risks it poses for some users?

That is more than a hypothetical question. In fact, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which makes Chantix, is the named defendant in many state and federal lawsuits based on product liability and failure-to-warn arguments.

Although Pfizer's liability is of course an entirely separate matter from physician culpability, the heightened health and safety risks that Chantix poses for many users -- suicidal iterations, aggressive behaviors, depression and other symptoms -- have been well known for years.

In fact, and as stated in a recent media article noting federal regulators' continuing concerns with Chantix, the FDA advises doctors "to weigh the drug's risks against its potential benefits."

Clearly the risks are deeply concerning, as well as being increasingly noted. Chantix labeling already contains a so-called "black box" warning that prominently points out the drug's heightened use risk for some consumers. The FDA says that it will now require Pfizer to add an additional warning regarding potential risks associated with Chantix use and alcohol consumption.

Doctors who prescribe Chantix should reasonably know a great deal about it before doing so.

The reason why is eminently clear: Chantix is hardly a panacea for all consumers. In fact, it is a flat-out nightmare for some users. Consultation service from the Maloney Team is free. Contact us today to get started.

Source: CBS News/AP, "New FDA warning for anti-smoking drug Chantix," author uncited, March 10, 2015

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