Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pilots and smoking

Federal regulators ruled that Pfizer’s smoking-cessation drug Chantix can't be used by pilots and air-traffic controllers. See more details at the Wall Street Journal Blog

Chantix has been under scrutiny for a while for psychiatric side effects. A report this week also suggested that the drug may be associated with physical problems including seizures. Pfizer has said such potential problems are rare, and are already noted on the drug’s label. More than five million people have taken Chantix in the U.S., Pfizer said.

Smoking and smoking cessation have a high association with depression and suicide - http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/32/6/1000. So, is it the Chantix or the cigarettes? Smoking is also the leading cause of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes - http://www.clevelandclinic.org/heartcenter/pub/guide/prevention/smoking/smoking_hrtds.htm
So, is it the cigarettes or the Chantix? Smokers also have increased risks of seizures and more dangerous consequences of their seizures - http://www.med.nyu.edu/cec/living/lifestyle/smoking.html. So, is it the cigarettes or the Chantix?

Clearly, for the vast majority of people, Chantix is a far better option and much lower risk than cigarettes. However, no drug is perfect, and no drug is for everyone. Glaxo has offered free Commit nicotine lozenges to pilots. That’s a reasonable alternative option for pilots and good PR for Glaxo, while Pfizer is taking a hit and until we get more data on Chantix.

Lets hope Altria-Philip Morris doesn’t take Glaxo’s lead and offer free Marlboros to pilots.

Robert Cykiert, M.D.

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