To that end, the first two of eight bellwether lawsuits have a court date, as ordered by US District Court Judge Inge Johnson in Alabama. The October 22nd court date, and the subsequent trial will be watched closely, for this is the first test case. There are thousands of Chantix lawsuits in the pipeline.
Chantix targets those neuroreceptors in the brain responsible for the pleasurable feeling that smokers derive from inhaling, shielding those receptors from the influence of nicotine. The theory: if smokers are robbed of the pleasure associated with smoking, quitting will be easier.
Clinical trial data on Chantix prior to approval was impressive. Critics, however, cite that study participants were carefully screened for best results, and had the benefit of one-on-one professional counseling that most Americans trying to quit would not have access to.
When Chantix hit the market, various Chantix side effects soon overshadowed the success some smokers were having with Chantix.
Those side effects included Chantix suicide—which is the focus of the first bellwether lawsuit to be heard in October. Plaintiff Judy Ann Whitley claims the loss of her husband as an unlawful death. Mark Alan Whitley took his own life in 2007 after he began using Chantix to help him quit smoking.
Some Chantix users have enjoyed remarkable success, while others have experienced Chantix aggression, Chantix suicidal thoughts and other problems, including vivid nightmares. It appears as if Chantix, because it targets the brain, affects people differently.
Pfizer was no doubt buoyed by recent news that Chantix does not increase the risk of heart attacks, stroke or other cardiovascular concerns, according to a recent study by the University of California and published in the British Medical Journal. According to the Houston Chronicle (5/6/12), the results debunk an earlier study from last July, which suggested cardiovascular risk. The authors of the original study reportedly stand by their results.
Meanwhile, HealthDay News carried a report in February that a small study appears to show Chantix may help problem drinkers curtail their consumption of, and dependence on, alcohol.
"Chantix might reduce alcohol consumption by reducing overall enjoyment of the alcohol drinking experience," said study author Emma Childs, a research associate at the University of Chicago, in comments published in HealthDay (2/15/12).
"Chantix increased the unpleasant effects of alcohol, for example feeling drowsy and irritable, [and] participants also reported that they didn't like the alcohol effects as much," Childs said.
The study appears in the May, 2012 print edition of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Study authors admit the sample size of 15 participants was a limitation, and further research involving far more participants will be needed to achieve an accurate and definitive outcome.
Will Chantix eventually have an indication for problem drinkers, as well as smokers?
"We are not currently performing any studies with Chantix," Childs said, "although other groups are actively pursuing this line of research with a view to developing Chantix as an aid to people wanting to quit or cut down their drinking."
In the meantime, Chantix and suicide continues to be a concern. The second of two bellwether Chantix lawsuits is scheduled for January of next year. The plaintiff in that action represents the estate of Sandra Corey of Jacksonville, Oregon. Corey, according to the lawsuit, began using Chantix October 2, 2007, and soon experienced the onset of depression. Corey committed Chantix suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot wound on July 24 of the following year.
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The manufacturer of Chantix defends its product. In a release, the manufacturer stated: ''Pfizer stands by Chantix, which is an effective treatment option for adult smokers who want to quit, and has been approved in 100 countries and prescribed to 15 million smokers, including eight million in the United States,'' Pfizer said in response to questions from the Birmingham News.
According to figures published in the Birmingham News, there are no fewer than 2,498 cases as part of the Chantix MDL, with an additional 68 Chantix lawsuits pending in New York state courts.