There's no doubt about it: If you're a smoker, the best thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your body is to quit -- and quit right now.
But if you turn to meds for help, you might get the wrong kind of quit: Pfizer's notoriously risky anti-smoking drug Chantix has been linked to a disturbing number of suicides.
And now, researchers say the 122 suicides tied to this med so far tell only part of the story -- less than half the story, in fact. Because their analysis of misfiled Pfizer reports found 150 additional Chantix-related suicides.
In addition to the suicides, researchers from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices found 102 cases of possible hostility and aggression, 156 depressed patients, and 56 patients who may have battled psychosis -- all after taking the drug, and all "misfiled" in Pfizer's adverse event reports to the FDA.
Now, you're probably wondering how it's even possible to "misfile" all those reports -- and that's where this gets extra shady.
Instead of filing these reports individually and within 15 days as required by the FDA for serious and unexpected side effects, Pfizer filed them in the quarterly "periodic reports" reserved for expected side effects.
But let's look at this from a different point of view -- maybe this is just Pfizer being more honest than we've come to expect. Maybe it's just the company's way of saying it expects suicides, aggression, and depression among Chantix users.
Whatever the reason, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices senior scientist who looked at the Chantix data says Chantix is the riskiest drug they analyzed in their review of FDA reports -- in the third quarter of 2010 it was linked to twice as many deaths as any other medication.
And that's just another piece of bad news for a drug that's made quite a few headlines, and not in a good way. As I told you a couple months back, Chantix actually finished first on a list of drugs most likely to be linked to violence. (Read about that here.)
The new report finds more evidence of that, too -- like the 24-year-old woman who suddenly began beating her boyfriend as he slept because he "looked so peaceful."
That woman almost won a spot on another Chantix list as well: She later tried to kill herself.
Despite these and other well-known risks, Chantix isn't even very good at helping smokers to quit. Studies have shown that 80 percent of all patients who try it are back to smoking -- or still smoking -- a year later.
That's if they survive taking Chantix.