Anti-smoking drug claims seven lives

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London, Dec 30 (UNI) An anti-smoking 'wonder drug', hailed as the most effective weapon in the fight to give up smoking, is being linked to the deaths of seven people in the UK.

Taken by nearly a quarter of a million Britons, the drug ''Champix'' reportedly resulted in possible sideeffects in more than 1,300 people, ranging from headaches, nausea and vomiting to heart disorders and suicidal thoughts.

About 22.5 per cent of quitters who took the prescription-only drug were not smoking after a year, compared with 16 per cent of those who used nicotine-replacement therapy and three per cent who attempted to stop by using willpower alone.

The non-nicotine product works on brain receptors to relieve the cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting.

The European Medicines Agency had recently ordered a safety warning to be included in the drug's patient information, saying any Champix users who develop suicidal thoughts should stop their treatment and contact their doctor.

The seven suspicious deaths were attributed in two cases to heart problems and in one case to vascular disorder. A further three were put down to general health problems. One reported case was the suicide of Omer Jama, an editor at Sky TV, who slashed his wrists weeks after starting a course of the pills.

Some anti-smoking remedies contained a substance having anti-depressant actions. A number of anti-depressants had an effect that drove people to committing suicide, The Daily Mail quoted John Griffin, expert in the safety of medicines, as saying.

''Any drug with a propensity to increase suicide risk has to be treated very seriously,'' he noted.

In the US, where the drug has been taken by four million people, there were 5,157 complaints about it in just one week -- 55 of which involved suicides and 199 suicidal thoughts.

UNI

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