Varenicline: Depression, Suicide, And Chantix Linked In New Zealand Study

Varenicline, depression, and suicide have been linked again in a report from New Zealand about the Pfizer anti-smoking drug sold as Chantix in the United States. The same drug is called Champix in New Zealand.

New Zealand's 3 News reported Thursday that they had received a copy of a government study under that country's Official Information Act.

The varenicline, depression, and suicide study of Chantix or Champix followed almost 13,000 people aged 14 or older who were trying to quit smoking. It reported 701 events that might have been linked to varenicline, including 250 sleep disorders, 154 cases of depression, 80 cases of anxiety -- and four people who committed suicide.

A total of six people killed themselves in the course of the study, but the other two cases weren't linked to varenicline.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is aware of the possible risks of Chantix, although they said that the side effects aren't any more common with varenicline than with any other quit-smoking drug. The drug is required to carry a warning label about the possible elevated risk of depression or suicide.

If you're trying to quit smoking, you may now feel frustrated. Depression may kill, but lung cancer kills too.

The FDA said that you need to work with the doctor who is prescribing the varenicline to help you quit smoking. If you've ever been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, let the doctor know.

Anybody who quits smoking may feel a little grumpy, but watch out for serious mood changes. The FDA's official page on Chantix advises:

"If a patient develops agitation, hostility, depressed mood, or changes in behavior or thinking that are not typical for them, or if a patient develops suicidal ideation or behavior, they should immediately discontinue Chantix and report these symptoms to their healthcare professional."

Even the New Zealand 3 News report acknowledged that the island nation has spent almost $35 million to treat 100,000 smokers with varenicline -- and will continue to do so.

The benefits of quitting smoking are just too huge to give up without a fight.

With awareness of the possible risk of depression and suicide, Chantix and other varenicline users can protect their mental health as well as their lungs.

[depressed young woman photo by milias 1987 via Shutterstock]