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Chantix "Increasing Likely" to Cause "Agitation" and "Suicidal Behavior"

Doctors this morning are receiving, courtesy the American Medical Association's Morning Rounds news wrap-up, an extensive briefing about the smoking cessation drug Chantix -- known around here, of course, as the drug Carter Albrecht's friends and family blame, in part, for his violent behavior the night he was killed last September. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration issued a public health advisory concerning Chantix: "It appears increasingly likely that there may be an association between Chantix and serious neuropsychiatric symptoms," read the advisory, including "agitation, depressed mood, suicidal ideation, and actual suicidal behavior."

The AMA missive is an interesting round-up of reports: There's the mainstream media coverage, including the Associated Press' report that Chantix manufacturer Pfizer has "suggested that since nicotine withdrawal alone can cause mood swings and agitation, it may be impossible to determine" if the drug "aggravates those behaviors." And then there's this from MedPage Today, where Bob Rappaport, M.D., director of the FDA's division of anesthesia, analgesia, and rheumatology products, says that the benefits of quitting smoking "might outweigh the risks" of taking the drug. --Robert Wilonsky

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