Monday, May 12, 2008
OK...now that we have weight loss pills that can might make you lose your mind, now let's give anti-smoking pills a shot at it too.
Pfizer's Chantix has now been definitively linked to depression and suicidal behavior. As of February 2008, 37 suicides were reported in the U.S w/400 additional known reports of suicidal behavior as well as 11 suicides in the U.K - all linked to the drug. Yet, the federal government just issued "new advice" to doctors for helping smokers quit by recommending Chantix !
The government, alongside its heart felt recommendation has issued some guidelines which also reasonably recommended counseling. But part of the guidelines spell out that doctors are in fact encouraged to talk to all smokers who want to quit to try the medication (even though the medication has been shown to be ineffective for many groups). But what makes these guidelines particularly interesting, is not so much what is being said (which is absurd within itself), but who is saying it.
The lead author of the quit smoking guidelines, released this week by the U.S Public Health Service, is Dr. Michael Fiore, an expert on smoking and health issues who was a consultant to the maker of Chantix, Pfizer. He claims those ties were severed in 05'. But what exactly does "severed ties"mean ? And in a best case scenario if Fiore has no financial benefits from pitching Chantix, how unbiased is his perspective on the risk/benefit equation of the medication ? Some folks just don't buy it. Take consumer advocate John Polito.
Polito is a smoking cessation educator who runs the WhyQuit.com site advocating quitting "cold turkey." He called the revised guidelines "a sales pitch" for the drug industry and believes that there is much overlooked research that shows that quitting cold turkey works. Polito also noted that studies showing Chantix is superior don't reflect how it's used "in the real world."
"People are quitting smoking to save their lives," Polito said. If Chantix's risks outweigh its benefits, "then it's insane for people to risk their lives" by using it, he said.
But when touting effectiveness of a drug that is linked to suicide - one might wonder..what are these astounding effectiveness rates? Well, astounding they are not - only if you look at how astoundingly unimpressive they are. The guideline authors analyzed 83 studies and found that Chantix helped at best a mere 33 percent stay off tobacco for six months after quitting. But the studies also showed that Chantix is not shown to be effective at all in certain groups, including; pregnant women, smokeless tobacco users, light smokers and adolescents. That's a whole lot of smokers. The guidelines also say doctors should consider asking about their patients' psychiatric history before prescribing Chantix. Doctors also should monitor patients for changes in mood and behavior while on the drug.
But one can't help but wonder.. when has a general practitioner known to do a psychiatric assessment, or for that matter to make sure that the smoker smokes enough to even have a result. How about a mandatory pregnancy test prior to being prescribed the meds? What exactly are these guidelines for a pill that plays Russian roulette with your psyche?
Lois Biener, a researcher of tobacco use and control efforts at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, said most people who quit do so without smoking-cessation drugs.
There's little evidence that these drugs are superior in the long run to quitting without help, and while a few studies have shown some benefit, it's "way less than what is claimed" by medication advocates, Biener said.
Well - that's you daily dose of reality meds, courtesy of The Lohasian.
(Source: Associated Press)