Chantix Side Effects: From Skin to Psyche

Dorothy Gale-Silver | May 31st, 2011

With the steady growth of Chantix lawsuits and increasing reports of Chantix side effects, the FDA recently issued a statement about the smoking cessation drug Chantix (varenicline).  The statement made on May 19, 2011, was issued in response to a report by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices’ (ISMP) claiming that the manufacturer, Pfizer, failed to promptly and properly report serious psychiatric side effects.

FDA comments on recent reports of Chantix side effects

The FDA believes that the omission of this information underestimates the true risks associated with the drug and that Chantix side effects render the medication unsafe for widespread clinical use.  The FDA said that the data contained in the reports only confirmed what they already knew which led to the mandated “black box” warning added to the drug’s label in 2009.  The warning label is directly related to suicidal thoughts and aggressive behavior believed to be some of the more prevalent psychological Chantix side effects.

Chantix suicide: serious issue for several lawsuits

The serious psychological Chantix side effects have been the basis for the majority of Chantix lawsuits, the FDA’s most stringent “black box” warning label, and many of the Chantix suicides reported in the news.  As was the case of David Collins who killed himself with a shot gun on January 3, 2008 while on Chantix and Sean Wain who committed murder-suicide, killing his wife Natalie also while on Chantix.

Chantix Stevens-Johnson Syndrome:  same cause, different outcome

Though Chantix suicide and other psychological side effects can be devastating there is another Chantix side effect that can also be life threatening, Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS).  Though the prevalence of this side effect is not as common as the psychological ones it can cause severe damage resulting in permanent scarring, disabilities, and death.

Stevens – Johnson syndrome was first described in 1922, and is a rare but serious disorder of the skin and mucous membranes.  It is a systemic, meaning it affects the entire body, allergic reaction caused by a hypersensitivity usually to a medication, like Chantix.

Symptoms and treatment of Chantix skin disease, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome

Chantix Stevens-Johnson Syndrome typically presents with flu-like symptoms that are followed by a painful reddish to purplish rash that spreads and blisters.  The patient may also develop a fever, ulcers in the mouth, and severe conjunctivitis.  As the rash spreads the top layer of skin dies and begins to slough off.  Those suffering from SJS typically require hospitalization with treatment focused on eliminating the underlying cause, controlling symptoms and minimizing the complications.  SJS can affect 10-30% of a person’s total body surface area anything more than 30% is then called toxic epidermal necrolysis, and both conditions are consider to be a form of erythema multiform.

Since SJS patients lose such large areas of skin they are most often treated in burn units.  The complications associated with this disease are secondary skin infections such as cellulitis which can lead to life-threatening complications like meningitis and sepsis.  Sepsis occurs when there is a massive infection in the blood that has spread through the body.  It progresses rapidly and can cause shock and organ failure.  SJS can cause inflammation in the eyes and in severe cases can lead to extensive tissue damage and scarring that can result in blindness.  This disease can also cause lesions to form on internal organs resulting in inflammation of the lungs, heart, kidney and liver.  SJS can also permanently damage the skin leaving scars, abnormal bumps and discoloration as the skin grows back.  This can lead to hair loss, and the inability for fingernails and toenails to grow normally.

This Chantix side effect, though not as common as its neuropsychiatric ones, can be life-threatening, disfiguring and disabling.  Consulting with a Chantix lawyer familiar with this devastating side effect may be the only way to get compensation for such terrible injuries.