"GlaxoSmithKline, the world's second largest drug company, conceded yesterday that the anti-smoking drug Zyban was suspected of causing adverse reactions in 35 people who have died in the UK since it was introduced last June.
The acknowledgement came at the inquest of Kerry Weston, 21, a British Airways air hostess who was found dead in a hotel room in Nairobi, Kenya, in January, two weeks after she began taking the drug to help her quit her 15-a-day habit. (Guardian)
I'm usually not particularly interested in Stop Smoking drugs, because I have no intention of ever using any. What intrigued me about this was that it was Zyban that was being linked to smokers' deaths. Wasn't it Chantix or Champix that was linked? Or were they the same drug under different names? I began to investigate.
It soon emerged that they were quite different drugs, made by different manufacturers. I found the side effects of Zyban listed as fever, nausea, agitation, anxiety, dry mouth, headache, skin rashes, constipation, sleep problems and convulsive fits. Listed in the same place were the side effects of Chantix, which were nausea, headache, difficulty sleeping, abnormal dreams, increased appetite, taste changes, dry mouth, drowsiness, tiredness, dizziness, and gut disturbances such as constipation, diarrhoea or indigestion. I've emphasized the duplicate symptoms found in Chantix and Zyban.
What about NRT? Does that have any side effects? Yes, it does.
Isn't that amazing? All these quit-smoking drugs share the same side effects! Nothing there about sudden death though. But then I found out more on a lawyer blog:
Last summer the FDA issued a warning on the drugs Chantix and Zyban, used by people trying to quit smoking, for their link to suicides. Zyban is also sold as Wellbutrin and is also used to treat depression. A July 2009 New York Times article states that Chantix has been linked to 98 suicides and 188 attempted suicides; Zyban is linked to 14 suicides and 17 attempted suicides.
According to FDA reports as well as information gathered from clinical trials, many people started experiencing mental health side effects a short time after taking the drugs, which ended after they stopped taking the medication.
So both the Zyban and Chantix are linked with suicide (and perhaps also sudden death). Next the Daily Mail 21 Jan 2008:
A widow claimed yesterday that a drug designed to help smokers quit may have played a role in her husband's suicide.
Father-of-two Wayne Marshall, 36, was found hanged shortly after completing a 13-week course of Champix, which it is feared may have depressive side effects.
Then I began to see that the medical and quit smoking sites which had listed the side effects were playing down the suicide and sudden death risks, while the Daily Mail and the lawyer blog were playing them up. A published study of smoking and suicide concluded:
The above data indicate a) suicide is strongly associated with current smoking; however, whether this is because smoking is a marker for other causes of suicide or because smoking or nicotine actually is a behavioral toxin is unclear, b) suicide might be expected to increase during initial smoking cessation but the little data available does not confirm this, and c) three smoking cessation medications--bupropion [Zyban], rimonabant and varenicline [Chantix]--have been associated with suicidality in smokers; however, the validity of data for this last association is unclear.
Interesting that there's a third drug there, rimonabant, which is also associated with suicide. So you're quite likely to kill yourself if you smoke, but what happens when you try to give up smoking using some prescribed drug is 'unclear', or else there's 'little data'.
Funny that all three of these stop-smoking drugs carry a suicide risk.
The apologists for the various drugs blame all the depression and suicidality on smoking, naturally. You're quite likely already depressed and suicidal if you smoke (in case you hadn't noticed). But then, when you try and give up, you get even more depressed and suicidal. Nothing to do with the drugs, of course. It's just another one of the innumerable evils of tobacco. It's what happens when you give up smoking:
Mood changes – on average these last up to four weeks. Typical manifestations include being irritable, restless and depressed.
Difficulty in concentrating – on average this lasts less than two weeks
Urges to smoke - These will last for about four weeks, as the nicotine ‘craving’ only lasts four weeks if you have stopped smoking. As time goes on they will decline in frequency, but may increase in intensity. Don’t be surprised if you have a really strong urge for a cigarette quite a few months, even a year, after stopping.
Increased hunger and weight gain...
I guess that my conclusion is that, should I ever decide to give up smoking, then it would be imperative NOT to use Zyban, Chantix, or any other pharma product. Much better to do it cold turkey. Best of all is to never give up smoking at all. Because that way you don't get any side effects at all.
But I also found myself wondering whether any of the doctors and antismoking organisations and pharma companies care anyway what happened to smokers who used these drugs. After all, it's not about health. Anyone can see that smoking bans which drive smokers out into the cold and wet cannot in any way be good for their health. Neither is it good for anyone's health to become socially isolated or estranged from their circle of friends. Do any of the various "lifestyle health" experts give a damn about that? No, they don't. They're just trying to get rid of smoking and smokers using the state-sponsored violence of smoking bans and smoking denormalisation.
And if you're just trying to get rid of smokers, then it absolutely makes sense to prescribe them drugs which will make life hell for them, and maybe even kill them, or - best of all - get them to kill themselves. After all, in the eyes of antismokers, smokers are already killing themselves anyway. You're just helping them on their way.
And furthermore you get them to pay for their own extermination. With ever-rising taxes on tobacco, and finally paying with their own money for the prescription drug that will kill them.
The smoker holocaust may have already begun. The new antismoking Nazis may actually be just as murderous as the original Nazis. But this time it's not going to be done with gas chambers and firing squads. The holocaust will be self-administered this time. It will be the victim who will be to blame, not the guards in the concentration camp. It will be his fault in the first place for being a smoker, and his fault for taking the prescribed drugs, and his fault for hanging himself. They don't want any Nuremberg trials this time around.
Over the top?
Maybe. And maybe not. You never know, these days.