Chantix suicides and violence much more common, newly found reports show

A senior scientist working for the non-profit Institute for Safe Medicine Practices has discovered that Chantix is a much more dangerous drug than has been officially acknowledged after finding hundreds of serious adverse reactions were reported to the FDA by manufacturer Pfizer Inc. through improper channels.

When Thomas J. Moore analyzed data collected from the FDA’s Adverse Events Reporting System (AERS), he found nearly 600 reports of serious adverse reactions, including 150 suicides, were mixed in with 26,000 records of non-serious side effects such as nausea and skin irritations. These “missing” reports, some of which go back to 2006, also include accounts of uncharacteristic aggression and hostility, violent outbursts, severe nightmares, and debilitating depression.

In an interview with MSNBC, Mr. Moore said the situation represents “a major breakdown in safety surveillance.”

Chantix has long been blamed for causing severe psychosomatic distress in people who use the drug to ease the cravings for cigarettes while trying to quit smoking. Even before the additional reports of hostilities and suicides were discovered, Chantix has topped the list of the most dangerous FDA-approved drugs.

“It’s really chilling,” Moore added. “This seems to unleash something in people. It can be violence to anything around.”

Until July 2010, the FDA received 122 reports of suicide linked to Chantix, less than the number of suicides contained in the newly discovered reports. Mr. Moore also found the 589 concealed included 102 cases of hostility and aggression, 156 cases of depression, and 56 cases of possible psychosis.

Although Pfizer willfully included these reports with those of less serious side effects, technically the pharmaceutical giant wasn’t breaking the law. The FDA’s reporting system contains two channels through which adverse reactions are reported by drug companies. The “expedited” channel is for serious and unexpected injuries that drug makers must report within 15 days. The other “periodic” channel is for less-serious and expected adverse reactions, which drug companies must report quarterly.

Believe it or not, the FDA does not require companies to submit new reports of death and serious injury in the “expedited” channel for urgent review when such adverse events are already known to exist. This provision allowed Pfizer to include the suicides, suicide attempts, depression, and violent outbursts in with the less-serious, expected adverse events where they went overlooked.

The reported serious side effects were further obscured when Pfizer combined summaries and individual case reports into a s single text file instead of logging them into the AERS system individually, which dramatically reduced the occurrence of serious side effects linked to the drug.

Just as outrageously, the FDA seems to recognize the flaws in its reporting requirements, but isn’t in a rush to fix them. According to MSNBC, “FDA officials said they are considering changing regulations to allow expedited reports of suicides and other serious problems, even if they’ve previously been identified as expected. First proposed in 2003, that change is still pending.”

U.S. doctors prescribed Chantix 3.2 million times last year to smokers trying to kick the habit. The drug has been prescribed 1.1 million times so far this year.