Women's health * Men's health * Quit smoking

Popular quit smoking drug increases heart risk

Popular quit smoking drug increases heart risk Champix raises risk by 72 per cent

A popular quit smoking drug can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke by 72 per cent, researchers have found.

Varenicline, marketed by Pfizer in the UK under the name Champix, is used to reduce nicotine cravings and block its pleasurable effects.

It was first licensed in the UK in December 2006, and is prescribed by a doctor. It interferes with the receptors in the brain that nicotine stimulates.

A review of drug trials found that taking Varenicline was associated with "a significantly increased risk of serious adverse cardiovascular events compared with placebo."

Scientists analyzed data from 14 doubleblind randomized controlled trials involving 8216 participants. The trials ranged in duration from 7 to 52 weeks.

"Despite achieving more than twofold higher rates of abstinence in the trials, which should potentially induce a cardiovascular benefit, the participants allocated to Varenicline experienced an increase in the risk of serious adverse cardiovascular events," the authors wrote.

"These increased risks of adverse cardiovascular events are seen in smokers with or without heart disease."

The authors also noted the additional risks of depression, agitation and suicidal thoughts caused by the drug, which resulted in the US Food and Drug Administration issuing a boxed warning - the highest level of warning.

Despite study limitations such as variable data and lack of statistical strength, the researchers concluded: "Clinicians should carefully balance the risk of serious cardiovascular events and other serious neuropsychiatric adverse events associated with Varenicline against their known benefits on smoking cessation."

Doireann Maddock, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Smoking is one of the major risk factors for heart disease.

"In fact, smokers double their risk of a heart attack compared with people who have never smoked, and quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do to improve your heart health.

“People using Varenicline to help them to stop smoking should not stop using it because of this study alone but should chat to their GP about it and the options available.”

The study is published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

This article was published on Tue 5 July 2011

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