A Johns Hopkins study led by an Indian origin scientist has suggested that healthy, middle-aged smokers who take the most popular anti-smoking drug on the market have a 72 per cent increased risk of being hospitalized with a heart attack or other serious heart problems compared to those taking a placebo.
“People want to quit smoking to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease but in this case they’re taking a drug that increases the risk for the very problems they’re trying to avoid,” said Sonal Singh, an assistant professor of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the lead author of the research.
In the study, Singh and his colleagues reviewed and analyzed 14 double-blind, randomized, controlled clinical trials involving more than 8,200 healthy people who received either varenicline (made by Pfizer and sold in the US under the brand-name Chantix) or a placebo. Whereas the number of people who died in each group was the same (seven), the increased risk of a major harmful cardiovascular event requiring hospitalization such as a heart attack or arrhythmia was 72 per cent in the varenicline arms.
Singh’s study found that varenicline substantially increased the risk of a serious cardiovascular event even among smokers without heart disease.
“I think our new research shifts the risk-benefit profile of varenicline,” said Singh.
“People should be concerned. They don’t need Chantix to quit and this is another reason to consider avoiding Chantix altogether,” added Singh.
The study has been described in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.