POTENT BUT LINKED TO SUICIDES
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.