Anti-Smoking Drug Link to Ten British Suicides; SLASHED WRISTS: TV Producer Omer JAMA

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), November 9, 2008 | Go to article overview

Anti-Smoking Drug Link to Ten British Suicides; SLASHED WRISTS: TV Producer Omer JAMA


Byline: Jo Macfarlane

HEALTH chiefs have revealed that ten people have committed suicide after taking a controversial anti-smoking drug linked to depression.

The disclosure by the Government's drugs watchdog is the first time officials have revealed the link between Champix and suicide in this country.

Earlier this year, US authorities announced they were investigating 37 similar cases there.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) website says a total of 24 people taking the nicotine-replacement have died, of whom ten took their own lives.

A further 213 claimed they had experienced suicidal thoughts and 407 said they were suffering depression.

There is no evidence that Champix has been a factor in any of the deaths. However, some experts are concerned that the drug, used by almost half a million people in Britain, may cause depressive thoughts and mood swings.

The MHRA says the number of users reporting adverse side effects while using Champix, also known by its generic name varenicline, has doubled in the past seven months - up from 1,811 in February to 3,541 in September.

The figures are on the MHRA's website, which holds regularly updated information about the reported effects of drugs licensed for use in the UK. The information is provided by doctors, nurses and patients.

The watchdog is now warning doctors and nurses to monitor the effects of the drug on smokers over the New Year, when many will try to kick the habit.

Its latest bulletin states: 'We continue to receive reports of suspected adverse reactions associated with varenicline, the most frequently reported of which are psychiatric disorders. As Christmas and the time for New Year's resolutions approach, we remind you to highlight to those taking varenicline the possibility of adverse psychiatric effects.' Last April an inquest heard how TV producer Omer Jama, 39, slashed his wrists eight weeks after starting a course of pills. A toxicologist told the hearing: 'There is a possibility he could have been influenced by the sideeffects of the drug.' In November 2007, father of two Wayne Marshall, 36, from Doncaster, was found hanged shortly after completing a 13-week course of Champix.

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