Veterans groups react to VA Chantix tests

This week has seen a snowballing reaction to the joint ABC/Washington Times news report about the Veterans Administration testing Chantix on soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

That snowball appears to be gaining speed and momentum. At least five congressman have queried the VA over the Chantix tests, and now a number of veteran’s groups are adding their voice to the chorus of anger.

The VA study proceeded without interruption even after FDA warnings surfaced announcing a strong link between Chantix, depression and suicide, and other adverse side effects. Since the story broke, the VA has been trying to brush aside concerns, claiming that it took reasonable action and notified all the appropriate people. However, based on all reports so far, the only people who weren’t notified were the veterans participating in the study.

Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told ABC News that “it is
unacceptable for even one veteran to have been misled about the possible side effects of Chantix.”

The VA had previously dismissed claims that it acted irresponsibly, saying that the actions of one soldier weren’t enough to justify discontinuing a study that had potential value for many more veterans.

That one soldier is James Elliot, a US Army sniper with PTSD. Mr. Elliot had a run in with police a couple months after he began taking Chantix.

“Are you going to shoot me? Shoot me,” Mr. Elliot told cops when they found him in the street packing a loaded gun.

After hearing that the VA neglected to warn him about the risks of Chantix, Mr. Elliot claimed that he felt like a “Lab rat, guinea pig, disposable hero.”

“Our nation’s veterans are not guinea pigs,” said Paul Rieckhoff.

Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense (VCS), expressed his disappointment in the VA. “The VA should have done a better job protecting the human rights of our veterans,” he said.

“While VCS supports research to assist veterans, VA must bear a heavy burden of responsibility with these experiments on veterans diagnosed with PTSD,” said Sullivan, who wants the study to be suspended immediately.