By JANET ST. JAMES / WFAA-TV
November 28, 2007
Complaints about the drug Chantix continue to mount.
The Food and Drug Administration announced last week that they are now investigating whether the stop-smoking medication is safe.
Now News 8 has learned the number and type of side effects might be far greater and more deadly than previously reported.
Over the last two months, Ryann Rathbone said she has received countless e-mails from people thanking her for bringing attention to the possible side effects of Chantix.
"We've had people who have e-mailed me that I don't know telling me about their depression or their aggression on it, or their boyfriend's aggression on Chantix," she said.
Rathbone's musician boyfriend, Carter Albrecht, was killed in September after being shot by a neighbor during what she described as a violent hallucination prompted by the drug.
After an initial report on Albrecht's death, News 8 requested, through the Freedom of Information Act, all the complaints filed with the FDA about Chantix. A computer disc was sent with 5,157 complaints, which were all filed in just one week after the News 8 report aired.
Suicide was reported 55 times. Suicidal thoughts were mentioned in 199 cases and 417 people complained of depression.
There were hundreds of mentions of anger, aggression, amnesia, hallucination and homicidal thoughts.
In California, Chad Huber was arrested after an allegedly unprovoked bar fight. His wife said the father of 6-year-old twins was never violent until starting Chantix.
An FDA spokesperson confirmed they are looking into 100 specific psychotic incidents in the United States.
Even before Albrecht's death, the FDA said they had planned an investigation based on complaints in Europe where Pfizer sold the drug as Champix since 2006.
Rathbone said it all reinforces her commitment to warn Chantix users to beware and be aware.
"Not just the people who are taking the drug need to be aware," she said. "I think their friends, their family, their coworkers [and] everyone needs to look for behavioral or mood changes."
She said she hopes to save others from the grief she continues to endure.
The FDA is urging doctors to carefully monitor patients on the drug. People should also report side effects to the FDA.