Warnings on stop smoking drug Champix

Published on August 3, 2010 at 11:07 PM · 34 Comments

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

The smoking cessation drug Champix (sold in the US as Chantix) has allegedly made fifteen people commit suicide since January 2008 in Australia. Another 191 patients have reported suicidal thoughts and related effects. The latest available figures from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) suggest a doubling in the numbers of suicides linked to Champix (Varenicline) since July last year with six people committing suicide.

Now the TGA has warned the doctors to remind patients of the potential risks and asked them to inform patients of possible mood disturbances that could be associated with the drug. TGA in its latest bulletin said it received 1,025 reports of suspected adverse reactions to Champix between January 2008, when it was added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and May this year. They report that 691 of these (67% of all complaints) were described “psychiatric symptoms such as depression, agitation, anxiety, altered mood and aggression” after taking the drug.

With the rise in the use of this drug as an anti smoking measure, there were 250,000 PBS scripts for Champix issued to August last year - a figure that has soared to more than one million since then. Last year, US regulators ordered warnings with the drug need to be strengthened.

According to a TGA spokeswoman it was not possible to say Champix caused the suicidal effects, as nicotine withdrawal itself could trigger similar symptoms. She said, “In general, overseas agencies have taken a similar approach to the TGA in raising consumer and prescriber awareness.” A spokeswoman for Champix's maker, Pfizer also pointed out that smoking kills 19,000 Australians every year and the drug was “an important treatment option for smokers who want to quit”.

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Comments
  1. Joanne Taylor Joanne Taylor Australia says:

    I started using champix as its known in Australia 14 days ago.  At first it was just feeling sick, very very tired and very thirsty, also had diarohea.  By day 8 I had started to get flu like symptoms - waves of uncontrollable shivering, very depressed & teary, no motivation, no appetite (its now Tuesday and I haven't eaten since Saturday).  Pfizer state that this is nicotine withdrawal however I WAS STILL SMOKING!  I have quit cold turkey before and never ever felt like this.  I have been smoking since I was 8 yrs old - am now 50.  By the time I went to the doctors on day 15 I had a fever of 38.5, could not work, almost broke up with my partner.  One day after not taking them and I feel 100% better than what I did.  Pfizer needs to take some responsibility for the people that have adverse reactions to their wonder drug.  They say they care about people dying of smoking related disease, however I think it's more about the billions that their wonder drug has made them.  I would much rather drop dead from smoking than ever touch this evil little blue tablet again!

    • Karen Karen South Africa says:

      I have been taking Champix from the 2nd of Sept 2011 and have been smoke free for 33 days now, appart from feeling very tired I must say I have had no side effects to date. Be sure to know if any do accure. I think that maybe Champix should have gone through the same screening as Zyban originlly did. If you had any history of depression or eating disorders you could not get a prescription. Maybe this way they would have been able to determine whether the people talking about depression after taking the medicine did not suffer from it in the first place.

    • Anne Anne Norway says:

      I have also Struggled with flu like symptoms after starting with Champix. Fever, muscle aches, sinuspain and dry cough. It has lasted for 10 days now and I am not getting better.. No appetite. Smell nor taste.. Tired. Is it just the flu or a side-effect?  I quit smoking but that is the only positive.

  2. Shye Shye United States says:

    My husband has all the side effects that i've read from above even he stopped for weeks now and just tonight we had a very intense fight that started from a very small details regarding our children then it came to a point that he is very agitated and then took the rifle with him and telling my children goodbye and he will take his own life. He never say this before because he find ti very stupid, crazy or is sick in the head if a person is thinking of having a suicide.Good thing my 4 yr old son stopped him and my 2 yr old daughter as well, plus I cried my heart out just to stopped him not to do it. Everything is a hell in the house the day he was taking this and until now that he is free from the tablet. I came to a point to research to what is causing him with all these strange behaviours and found out all the effects from the tablets after taking he was taking this from over 3 months. Please don't take this tablet! This is crazy! Everyday is a war in the house and full of sadness and screaming!

  3. Catrol Catrol South Africa says:

    Hi there,   I only took one tablet a day and not the prescribed two.  I also only took the tablets for 12 days and then stopped completely.  By day 5, I had stopped smoking and it has now been a month and still havent smoked.  Only side effects was dry mouth and crazy dreams.  It has really helped me.  I am happy, no tablets, no smoking.  I am gyming again like crazy.
    Could never have done this without Champix.

    • Margo Margo South Africa says:

      My doctor recommended Champix, but am quite depressive and nervous about the side effects and would prefer to go the natural way. Have tried SmokeEnders and failed. Perhaps will just give the patches another go.?

  4. Jacques Jacques South Africa says:

    Hi there, just a warning from one bronchitis sufferer to others that may try Champix. My sleep pattern has completely changed in the sense I don't get much sleep due to breathing problems because it seems that the mucus when having broncheal problems thickens with the drug and is then more stubborn to get out of your lungs, this causes long periods of shortness of breath, even fighting to get to breathe properly. Any exercise even just walking became a huge problem. I've tried Alcopholex & Lennons Borsdruppels to try and loosen the phlegm but it didn't help much. I used Vitamin C, ACC200 & Viral Boost,as some of the symptoms felt like flu due to a post nasal drip, and nothing helped. I then decided yesterday to stop taking Champix, and last night it seemed that I've had slept better already. Still struggling with walking distances and breathing today, hopefully this will get better as well. Well so far I've cutdown on 60% of what I have smoked before, so I'll just keep trying without the drug.

    • Augnischa Augnischa South Africa says:

      I fully agree and can associate with the symptoms he is talking about. I am on my 8th day of using the tablets. Have cut down from about 20 a day to less than 7 already and then it is only that I feel like smoking but as soon as I lit it I threw it away. I experience a shortness of breath, getting very tired when walking short distances, bad nightmares. I have also felt spells of dizzyness and have aching muscles. A friend told me to look it up and after reading all your comments I am going to stop using this all together.

  5. Augnischa Augnischa South Africa says:

    I started on Champix 8 days ago and sure enough I have already cut down from about a packet a day to only 7 and from that 7 I threw half away after litting them. About 2 days ago I started feeling very dizzy at times, experienced shortness of breath and a tightness in my chest. I get very tired when walking short distances and had the most awful dreams two nights in a row. Today I woke up with a splitting headache and muscle pains as if I am getting sick with Flu. A friend told me to google champix and so far it scared me. I am quitting on the pills straight away.

  6. Alison Alison South Africa says:

    I started taking Champix about three weeks ago.  It definitely helps you to stop smoking.  I just suffered with slight nausea at the beginning and stopped smoking after day ten.  But after about three weeks, I noticed my  mood swings.  I am already under stress with regards to job security and I have recently mentioned that my death would be the financial solution for my family. I have never comtemplated this before. I have feelings of worthlessness, become angry for little reason and act in a manic way when I cannot find things.  A close friend even mentioned that I had a "wild" look in my eyes! I do not want to subject my family to this and so have decided to stop taking these tablets.  I do know that nicotine withdrawal can make you feel depressed.  I did quit before and stayed smoke free for eight years and remember being teary when I initially quit, but this situation is worse - it's like all problems are insurmountable and there is no silver lining on any cloud!  I am now going to rely on will power not to smoke!!

  7. MO MO South Africa says:

    Thanks guys for sharing your experiences with Champix. My doc mentioned that this is something to try if I want to quit smoking but made no mention of any side effects. I am glad I decided to research Champix before taking the presciption. I will try going cold turkey and see how that goes. Thanks

  8. Gerald van der Merwe Gerald van der Merwe South Africa says:

    I have been diagnosed with early stages of COPD and as a result have to quit smoking. As a result of this and to support me my wife decided to quite as well and 18 days ago we started with Champix.  All went well for the first eight days then the terrible stomach burn, headache and nausea started. We tried the tablets before and after eating but it stay the same. About six days ago the mood swings started, one moment happy and full of life, the next depressed and finding fault with everything, believe me it is scary as this is NOT who we are. Being on high blood pressure meds I have found since Friday to have dizzy spells and blurred vision in my right eye. Yesterday it was so bad about half an hour after taking my tablet that I was actually staggering around in the house. Again this morning I drove 30Km to work to only find myself so dizzy and nauseas that I could not even get out of my car. I managed to get home and to our shock found my BP to be 181/121 with a 63 pulse. My sugar tested a normal 5.3. My wife kept on monitoring my BP and by the time the doctor came in it was 150/116 with a 67 pulse. As this is the only other meds we take we were advised to stop immediately taking this. So having cut down to 2 a day for myself and 7 for my wife it is going to be WILL POWER to pull through and not with Champix.

    • Christine Werth Christine Werth South Africa says:

      Hi Gerald,

      just want to know how you're doing now?  I need to stop smoking but find it very hard to do it without any help.  i dont know it you have any knowledge of this tablets, but want to ask you a question.  i have no blood pressure problems or sugar, but I am using an anti depressant so I am uncertain if I can use the stuff together.  Help asseblief!!  lol

  9. Erika Harmse Erika Harmse South Africa says:

    come on guys....each and every medication on the market has side effects. Its your responsiblity to make sure what the side effect can be! Don't crucify the Dr's for your own lack of knowledge!

  10. Caroline Caroline South Africa says:

    This medication has worked so well for me. I have been smoking for 12 years and Champix has helped me to stop. The only side effects I had were nausea, insomnia and weird dreams. I was a bit moody but again I think that comes with nicotine withdrawal.

    • Priscilla Priscilla South Africa says:

      Hi Caroline, I have exactly the same side effects as you do. I have noticed that if I don't the pills at the same time every day then it really pulls me down. Very naseous. I am now on day 57 of my treatment and day 45 of being smoke free. People have to be aware of the side affects, that is why it is stated on every medication pack. You need to make people areoung you aware that you are taking medication and they must be extra vigilant for your part on your behavious etc. Anyway, to all those who are still on the road to recovery...good luck.

  11. paul paul Australia says:

    i started on Champix on the 29/6 stopped smoking on the 8/7 have not had a smoke since finished taking them on the 18/9 & had no side effects at all when on them.But now i find myself VERY irritable & easily annoyed over small things for no good reason.
    Anybody had this?

    PS
    still want/feel like a smoke but do not need one

    • Shawn Shawn South Africa says:

      Hi Paul

      I to have stopped using my Champix due to side affects. I will be 8 weeks smoke free on the 21st Nov. I started using Champix in beginning of September, and stopped using it about the 1st week of October. I had extremely bad suicidel thought, moodswings, Anxiety, feels like depression, just to name a few. As I mentioned I have stopped using Champix in mid October, but still get so angry at the smallest things, still have some bad thoughts, and still have some chest pains every now and again, but not sure if it is related to Champix. Can anyone assist with this?

  12. chris chris South Africa says:

    Hi guys,I started three days ago so tomorrow will be my first double dose,will keep u up2date with my progress,as for weird dream,had them sice childwood,and love them,so hopefully champix can blast me away in that die effect.

    good luck

  13. Corlia Corlia South Africa says:

    Hi, I am already on my 3rd week of Champix and I am still smoking... alot less though! I also have the dry mouth, weird dreams, insomnia, nausea, debate / question everything with my husband, etc. I am feeling that this is worth it though, I have been smoking for 35 years (starting very young) and for the 1st time, smoking is not ruling my life! Does anyone know if it is normal for me to still have the occasional cigarete, while taking Champix?

    Good luck everyone! Smile

  14. Corlia Corlia South Africa says:

    Hi, I forgot to mention... my taste is affected, my steak does not taste the way I remember! :-(    Still worth it though, other "good" cravings are returning to normal.

    Smile

  15. Kerrie Kerrie South Africa says:

    My father shot himself after taking Champix for 2 months.  He was a very well known and well loved man and his suicide has shocked and stunned everyone.  He had no suicide tendancies or depression of any kind. He had a great and happy life.  I blame Champix and I blame the doctor for not informing him of any side effects.  How can a drug that causes suicide be on the market??????????????

  16. Lesley Lesley South Africa says:

    Even though I know smoking is more a(BAD)habit than need for me, I am desperate to find a way to break the filthy habit!
    Listening to a customer at the local pharmacy this morning raving about CHAMPIX made me think this is the way to go, but reading the comments here scares the heck out of me!!
    I need to speak to my doctor about the negative side effects but it sounds like the doctors either are not clued up about them or only react if patients experience them.
    Catch 22 situation?
    Thanks for sharing your experiences which means I can hopefully make a more informed decision!

  17. Ferhana Ferhana South Africa says:

    I have just started, Champix again after attempting it over a year ago. I did give up for two weeks but, stopped into my sixth week of taking champix, due to migrains and severe nausea.
    I then went back to smoking 20 a day, and a year later I have chronic bronchitis, I have never been so sick as I have this year. I have decided that I will give up smoking, or else my health and the lives of my loved ones will be affected (my 4year old daughter has terrible coughing bouts).
    So yes the side affects are there, I am determined to bite the bullet and give champix one more try, I am looking at this drug more positively and have prayed God has His hand in my healing process.

  18. Andy J Andy J South Africa says:

    Seriously ... everything thing I have read on this here thread about the side effects of this pill are nothing when compared to a life of smoking. No more stained teeth, smelling of smoke and coughing in the night for me ... Champix day 1 - lets go Smile

  19. AD AD South Africa says:

    I've been using champix for 5 weeks now. Absolutely brilliant. I have no side effects and feel great. I use to smoke about 40 a day for the last 11 years.Now I smoke nothing and I have no graving. This is the most amazing product I have ever used. Thanks CHAMPIX.

  20. Anette Hamer Anette Hamer South Africa says:

    Anette
    I have quit cold turkey before, ate like a horse and became fat and miserable.
    I am on Champix for 5 days now, last smoke was yesterday morning, feeling just fine.
    Do have nightmares about my father, but then he was a nightmare anyway.
    I want to take a boyfriend but is scared I cough him awake in the morning.
    Maybe the drug just brings out the worst of your traits anyway.  Nicotine is a much more powerful drug than people think, and mostly it is the habit, this morning was the first time I drove in traffic without smoking on the certain places I usually do.  It it so cool!!, and will report any further "madness" as I progress.

  21. Anette Hamer Anette Hamer South Africa says:

    I am on day 5.  Feeling just fine.  Been having some nightmares often involving my father, but then he was somewhat of a nightmare.
    Last smoke was on morning of day 4.  I think a lot of the side effects you will have anyway.  I quit cold turkey years ago (which lasted 7 years up until my divorce), I got terrible colds and coldsores.  Fact is, your membranes have been fighting off cigarette smoke and therefore have thickened.  Your membranes are going to get thin and then back to normal.  Expect coughing, flu like symptoms etc.  The above was explained to me by my doctor - remember the above symptoms was with NO medication.

  22. Adel Rabe Zeeman Adel Rabe Zeeman Rwanda says:

    I am posting on my wife's profile. To be brief i took Champix and shortly after was getting major depression and suicidal thought. I stopped taking after three weeks. During the time i was on the tablets i consulted my doctor to get depression tablets. I stopped these two weeks after i stopped Champix. Would strongly recommend that you do not take this drug. You are playing with fire!!!!!

    • Catherine Gaum Catherine Gaum United States says:

      It does seem to work for more people than not Adel. People should just monitor themselves carefully. It is not like taking a headache tablet. It is a serious prescription drug and should be treated as such.

  23. Catherine Gaum Catherine Gaum United States says:

    After reading all the comments I feel I must stress a point one person made. We are responsible for our own lives. All medicine packaging comes with an information sheet. The warnings in Champix's sheet clearly mentions depression and suicidal thoughts and tendencies. I am on my third course of Champix in 2 years. The first time I took champix I got very depressed and had suicidal tendencies. I stopped taking it but still smoked 5 or so cigarettes a day. The second time I took champix, about 6 months later, I was very aware of the side affects, kept busy and only took it with a meal. The side affects I experienced was aching muscles, bloated stomach and very very cold feet. The pervasive dark feeling was present but not as bad as the first time.. I stopped smoking completely after 4 weeks, but did not finsih the course of three months. I smoked again maybe one a day after a while and a year later decided to try again. I still suffer from cold feet and aching calves and ankles but I combat that really bad feeling with a meal when I take the tablet and I lie down for an hour in the morning immediately after taking the tablet, as it seems to worse in the mornings. I have stopped smoking completely and will try to finish the course this time, although the stiff calves and ankles and cold feet are getting to me. I would recommend Champix, but read the pamphlet and if depression starts, not only stop taking it but contact your doctor.

  24. Albert Vorster Albert Vorster United States says:

    Albert Vorster
    I used Champix for three months and stopped smoking. I have become very agressive which is not in my nature. If I really knew what this drug was going to do to me I would have used something else. My hole life has changed and I nearly lost my wife because of my agressive behaviour. This drug is poison and should be band. I am hopeful that the side effects will disappear eventually so that I can go on and be myself again. A warning to all the other smokers who want to stop google the side effects of Champix before using it. It is quite an eye opener if you go to the Champix sites from overseas and compare it to the South African site. They are not scared to talk about the side effects and let other people know what can really happen. Why are we not going the same route.

    Comment on Catherine message; They tell you about the side effects, but they dont tell you what part of the brain it effects when you take the pills. I think the warnings should be printed in a larger format so that it is easy to read but they cannot because the pamplet wont fit in the box and the printing costs will kill them. I have never seen a drug with so many warning and side effects.

  25. Jay Gurd Jay Gurd uk says:

    I took Champix for 4 weeks and it was amazing how easy it was to become a non smoker, but during this time I had the most unbelievable mood swings, raging over the slightest problems, falling out with both my children.  I constantly felt sick. When I mentioned it at Quit4Life I was told it could affect hormonal balance and she didn't seem at all concerned - I'm 58 and my hormones have been dormant for years!! I finally realised it was the medication that was making me feel so ill and I stopped taking Champix a week ago, as the dark thoughts and being so agitated really frightened me.  Tomorrow I am going to make a Dr's appointment as I am still crying uncontrollably although the anger has gone.  I am still a non smoker BUT for me losing my mind is not worth it.  I have suffered from depression on and off for years - I did read the huge pamphlet - BUT I think my doctor should have refused to sign the prescription for me!!

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
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