Daily Mail - - sandra Parsons -

AVAIL­ABLE only on pre­scrip­tion, Champix has been used by more than 500,000 peo­ple in Bri­tain to help quit smok­ing.

It works by stim­u­lat­ing the same re­cep­tors in the brain as nico­tine to re­duce crav­ings for cig­a­rettes and cut with­drawal symp­toms.

It also blocks nico­tine’s ac­tion on those re­cep­tors, mean­ing the re­lease of the ‘plea­sure’ chem­i­cal dopamine is less­ened if the pa­tient has a cig­a­rette.

Stud­ies have found that pa­tients tak­ing Champix are four times more likely to have given up smok­ing af­ter 12 weeks than those tak­ing a placebo. But the drug has been linked with sui­cides and other deaths around the world, and it comes with a leaflet car­ry­ing warn­ings about sui­ci­dal thoughts and de­pres­sion.

Champix was ap­proved for use on the NHS in 2007 with the rec­om­men­da­tion it should be pre­scribed ‘only as part of a pro­gramme of be­havioural sup­port’.

Man­u­fac­turer Pfizer has in­sisted a di­rect link be­tween Champix and psy­chi­atric prob­lems has not been es­tab­lished by stud­ies.

A spokesman said nico­tine with­drawal alone could lead to mood swings and be­havioural changes, in­clud­ing sui­ci­dal thoughts.

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