Responding to widespread pressure from many congressmen, veteran’s organizations, and the general public, the Veterans Administration announced today that it would directly notify all of its veterans currently using Pfizer’s new smoking cessation drug Chantix. The number of veterans on Chantix is approximately 32,000.
Chantix is known to create or worsen several neuropsychiatric conditions including suicidal thought and actions.
All of the 940 veterans in the VA study had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 143 of those veterans were selected to receive Chantix. Those veterans were given the drug and $30 monthly payments.
The FDA published its first Chantix warning on Nov. 20, 2007, with subsequent warnings from the FDA and the manufacturer Pfizer. Three months passed, however, before the VA notified all relevant doctors and staff involved in the study, and even then, there was no mention of suicide.
James Peake, Veterans Affairs Secretary, said that the 940 veterans in the study would receive a personal warning letter from him. Another 31,000 additional veterans would receive the same warning, he told The Washington Times.
Peake also disclosed that 26 of the study’s PTSD veterans experienced adverse events, including three reports of contemplated suicide.
The drug’s propensity to ignite suicidal thoughts and actions, especially in patients with heightened emotional and mental volatility, was the central concern of those calling for an end to the VA study.
While the VA does not intend to stop the study prematurely, it has said that it will end the study if necessary. New subjects are not being enrolled in the study.