May 23, 2008 -- The quit-smoking drug Chantix is being grounded for pilots
and air traffic controllers, and Chantix use may be reason for medical
examiners to disqualify interstate truckers and bus
The Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) ruled on Wednesday that "Chantix was no longer acceptable
for use by pilots and controllers," FAA spokesperson Les Dorr tells WebMD. And
the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration -- the branch of the U.S.
Department of Transportation that oversees trucking and busing -- has told
medical advisors that Chantix use could put the brakes on an interstate
truck or bus driver's medical fitness for duty.
The FDA has been analyzing
reported adverse events -- including suicidal thoughts and suicidal
behavior -- in Chantix users since late last year.
"In November, we had put on the
[Chantix] label a precaution about use when operating heavy machinery," Janet
Woodcock, MD, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research,
"Every drug is not right for every
person," says Woodcock. "If they're in a specialized occupation where sedation
or other problems might pose an extra risk, then if they need to go on a drug
like this, they need to take a brief pause from that occupation or not do it
while they're, say, flying an airplane."
Not a pilot, trucker, or bus
driver? If you drive at all, you should still take note of drug
labels. "Many, many medications can impair your driving ability," says
Woodcock. "People should be very careful when they're taking any medication
that has these labeled precautions."
A spokesperson for Pfizer, the drug company that makes Chantix, wasn't
available for comment in time for publication.
However, Pfizer updated the Chantix web site with a "new safety information"
link, dated May 2008, about reported mood changes, suicidal thoughts or
behaviors, and cautions about driving or using heavy machinery. That
information is already on the Chantix label.