Deciding to quit smoking is a major step toward a healthy lifestyle. Many people who have successfully kicked the smoking habit or have tried to do so agree that it is not an easy habit to break. When Pfizer Inc. introduced the smoking-cessation drug Chantix in the United States in 2006, smokers who wanted help quitting were thrilled. Unfortunately, this dangerous drug has some serious side effects.
Back in January, a Green Bay, WI workers comp attorney wrote about how Chantix, generically known as Varenicline, had been linked to several suicides and other acts of injury. Now, it seems the drug may be responsible for a murder-suicide that left four children orphaned.
The fathers of a husband and wife have recently filed a federal lawsuit asserting that Chantix caused a 34-year-old man who took the medication to experience rage and violent behavior, resulting in his death, as well as that of his wife in May 2009. The couple’s four young children are now left without parents.
The plaintiffs assert that Pfizer spent in excess of $100 million from 2007-2008 to advertise Chantix. However, the drug manufacturer failed to properly warn patients of the dangers associated with the drug. Specifically, Pfizer did not warn of the risk of “violent behavior, rage, serious injury or death.”
The plaintiffs further argue that Pfizer intentionally excluded certain patients from its clinical trials. Although studies show that nearly half of all cigarettes are smoked by individuals with mental illness, no one in the controlled clinical trials had a serious psychiatric illness like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or a major depressive disorder. Because of this exclusion, the safety of Chantix for users with psychiatric illnesses was never established.
Pfizer should have known that Chantix was a dangerous drug. Reports indicate that in the fourth quarter of 2007, the medication was involved in 988 serious injuries across the country. By July 2009, the Food and Drug Administration had received 98 reports of Chantix-related suicides.
Despite knowing that the drug caused neuropsychological side effects, Pfizer chose not to explicitly warn of the increased risk of injury and death on the packaging. The two men who instigated this lawsuit are hoping to hold Pfizer accountable for its actions and wish to prevent another family from experiencing this type of heartbreak.