MONDAY, July 4 (HealthDay News) -- The quit-smoking drug Chantix may increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes by as much as 72 percent in smokers who take it, even those without heart disease, researchers say.
The new study comes just over a week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported a small but significant risk of heart attack and stroke among people with pre-existing heart disease using Chantix (varenicline).
"All smokers who take Chantix are at risk for heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event," said study author Dr. Sonal Singh, an assistant professor of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
The findings, published July 4 in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), are based on a review of 14 studies involving more than 8,200 smokers or users of smokeless tobacco, most of whom had no evidence of heart disease. About 4,900 took Chantix; the others were given a placebo. Follow-up ranged from 7 to 52 weeks.
The researchers found that 52 (1.06 percent) of the participants taking Chantix had serious cardiovascular events compared with 27 (0.82 percent) of those taking the placebo.
"Chantix is causing the problems it's supposed to prevent," Singh said, noting that, in addition to certain cancers, smoking increases heart risks. "Don't use Chantix, and try to quit unassisted," he said. "If you can't, there are other cheaper and safer alternatives."
Another study author, Dr. Curt D. Furberg, a professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., said they found that the risks associated with Chantix outweigh any potential benefits.
"Chantix can cause cardiovascular problems, and this is on top of other bad news about the drug," he said. The FDA in 2009 mandated that Chantix carry a "black-box" warning ab
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