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Dueling studies examine heart risks of popular smoking-cessation drug Chantix

A year ago, researchers raised the red flag on popular smoking-cessation drug Chantix, citing findings that taking the medication was associated with an increased risk of serious heart problems. Today, a San Francisco Chronicle article takes a look at a new UC San Francisco study that challenges the earlier research and found no significant difference in rates of heart attacks and other serious  problems between smokers who took Chantix and those who didn't.

In the story, Sean David, MD, PhD, a clinical associate professor of medicine at Stanford, comments on what the findings may mean for physicians. He says:

[The previous work] hasn't really changed whether or not I prescribe the medication that works the best for my patients. But I know that there are a lot of physicians that were alarmed and probably have stopped prescribing it... Hopefully this new study will help physicians reconsider.

It's worth noting that both studies involved a large number of participants: 14 clinical trials and 8,200 patients in the 2011 study compared with the 22 trials and 9,200 patients in the UCSF study.

The article brought to mind an entry posted on Scope earlier this week about an Institute of Medicine report recommending ways to improve the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's drug-approval and tracking systems. The report's goal is to determine how best to identify unanticipated side effects prior to a drug reaching the market — an important issue in cases such as Chantix, a drug that has been shown to have high success rates in helping patients kick the nicotine habit.

Previously: New ideas to help FDA discover drug risks, Hey doc, got a light? Research highlights Big Tobacco’s long history with the medical community and Kicking the smoking habit for good
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