Drug taken to stop smoking is linked to traffic mishaps

Daniel Williams hoped Chantix would help him quit smoking and become healthier. Instead, he believes, it nearly killed him.

WASHINGTON — Daniel Williams decided he’d listen to his girlfriend and his 8-year-old son and finally quit smoking, with the help of a new prescription drug called Chantix.

He started taking the medication, and a couple of nights later, as he was driving his pickup truck on a country road in Louisiana, Williams suddenly swerved left.

His girlfriend, Melinda Lofton, who was with him, later told him that his eyes had rolled back in his head and that it had seemed as if he was frozen at the wheel, accelerating.

Moments later, they were in a bayou, struggling to escape the murky water, Williams said.

“Since I was a kid, never had anything like this ever happened before,” he said.

“It never happened before, and it hasn’t happened since. And all the tests I’ve taken say I have nothing wrong with me at all.”

The nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices last week linked Chantix to more than two dozen highway accidents reported to the Food and Drug Administration, saying the mishaps may have resulted from such drug side effects as seizures.

The FDA had earlier issued a warning about suicidal thoughts and suicides among patients taking Chantix and is now evaluating whether it needs to expand and strengthen that precaution.

Pfizer, the drug’s manufacturer, said that as early as May of last year, it had added a warning to the prescribing literature for Chantix that patients should exercise caution when driving or operating machinery until they know how the medication affects them.

But such admonitions apparently didn’t get much notice from busy doctors. Even some government transportation agencies missed them.

The Federal Aviation Administration continued, until last week, to list the drug as approved for pilots. The federal truck safety agency was also unaware of the risk.

“That is a problem,” said Janet Woodcock, head of the FDA’s drug evaluation center, adding that her office needs to find ways to communicate safety information more effectively.

The military, which bans Chantix for flight and missile crews, is considering whether other precautions are needed, Pentagon officials said.

Woodcock said the FDA believes the medication should remain on the market as an option for smokers trying to quit.

Approved two years ago, it differs from other smoking-cessation drugs by acting directly at sites in the brain affected by nicotine, blocking the pleasure that comes from smoking as well as the cravings.

But Williams, 28, said he was surprised that a drug he had hoped would help turn him into a healthier person instead, he believes, caused an accident in which he could have been seriously hurt, even killed.

Lofton is still struggling with a neck injury she suffered.

Williams, a telephone service technician, lives near Rayville, La., between Shreveport and the Mississippi River.

He said he went to see his doctor last year for help quitting his nearly two-pack-a-day habit. He’d started smoking in high school and had failed in previous attempts to quit.

But he knew people who recommended Chantix.

Related posts:

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Please copy the string fPYrXi to the field below: