FDA: Chantix May Raise Heart Attack, Stroke Risk
Weighing Benefits and Harms
Experts say the bottom line is that smokers should carefully weigh the risks and benefits of taking the drug against the risks of smoking. Smokers have two to four times the risk of developing heart disease compared to nonsmokers, according to the CDC.
“Patients have to use this information along with their physicians, and they have to be aware of these risks,” says Sonal Singh, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of medicine and public health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md.
“Smoking is a terrible disease. I think people need all options to help them quit,” Singh says.
“What I do with my patients is that I try other options first,” says Singh, who led the 2011 safety review of Chantix. “After you’ve exhausted all other options, and other safer, cheaper options, then you try this. I think that’s very reasonable.”
Other experts agree that the benefits of taking the drug may be worth the risks for people with serious addictions.
“Some people who come to quit smoking, they’re in their 40s or 50s, and they’ve tried to quit many times before with other products, other means," says Pat Folan, RN, director of the center for tobacco control at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y.
“People have been successful with it,” Folan says. “We’ve had over 400 people use it, and we have not really seen any [bad side] effects with our patients, but it doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.”
Folan adds that they monitor patients closely if they choose to start the drug.
Advice to Patients
The FDA advises people who are taking Chantix to contact their doctors immediately if they experience any of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- New or worsening chest pain
- New or worse pain in legs when walking
- Sudden onset of weakness, paralysis, numbness, or difficulty speaking or understanding speech