Chantix Raises Heart Attack Risk: Study

07/05/2011 12:41 pm ET | Updated Sep 04, 2011
  • Amanda Chan Huffington Post

Chantix, the most popular smoking-cessation drug, could raise your risk of being hospitalized for a heart attack, according to a new review of studies.

In the review, published this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Chantix increased the risk of hospitalization from heart attack or serious heart problems by 72 percent, compared with people who took a placebo.

The review consisted of 14 studies that included more than 8,200 healthy people (mostly men under 45) who took Chantix or a placebo.

The same number of people died in each group, but the risk of hospitalization because of heart attack or heart arrhythmia was higher among the people who took Chantix.

"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," study researcher Dr. Sonal Singh, M.D., assistant professor of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a statement.

Researchers saw an elevated risk of hospitalization for heart attack or heart problems in the studies for up to one year, including the time for which people were on Chantix (about 12 to 24 weeks) and the follow-up period afterward up to a year, Singh said.

Chantix, which is also known as varenicline, is manufactured by Pfizer and is known to improve the chances of a smoker quitting, though many smokers do quit without the assistance of pharmaceutical drugs. The drug is already known to raise the risk of suicidal thoughts -- and even includes an FDA warning on its box.

A previous 700-person study, published last month, had showed that Chantix raised heart attack risk among people who already have existing heart disease, but this new review shows that the risk of serious heart problems exists for even healthy people, researchers said.