If you use the medication called Chantix®, for smoking cessation, you need to stop according to the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA). This medication has just been officially recalled by Pfizer, in all lot numbers, sizes and dosages. It goes by the chemical name varenicline and has been on the market for over 15 years.
The smoking cessation medication was FDA-approved for the masses in May 2006 because studies proved it worked better than a placebo to get people off tobacco. The studies showed that within 3 months over 40 percent of people using Chantix® were able to quit smoking.
But that doesn’t matter anymore because the medication was found to be tainted with a cancer-causing chemical called nitrosamine. For clarity, I want to be sure you know that Bupropion a different drug altogether is not impacted by this recall. It is also used for smoking cessation and may serve as an alternative for some of you. It used to go by the name of Zyban® but the brand was discontinued – only generics are available today.
Here is a link to the official ANNOUNCEMENT.
Since 2006 when the FDA approved it for smoking cessation, millions of men and women took Chantix (varenicline) tablets to help them with their nicotine addiction. The reasons vary for why a person would want to quit smoking but for sure, smoking leads to disease and disability, a weakened immune system, as well as faster signs of skin aging due to the free radical damage done to the skin.
Everyone knows that it can increase one’s risk for emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer. So to have a smoking cessation medication that helps such as Chantix was something that everyone welcomed. It is ironic that those who feared lung cancer induced by smoking – who took Chantix to stop – now have to face the fact that they were likely exposed to the cancer-causing nitrosamine found in the drug itself!
In the old days, when the drug was on the market, the only side effects that doctors warned them about were bad dreams, amnesia, aggression, suicidal thoughts and the intensification of drunkenness with alcohol consumption. Those psychiatric problems that I just listed were the reason the drug was made to have a BLACK BOX warning in 2015, and physicians were immediately informed back then.
But now, (today), we know there is the potential for DNA damage from nitrosamine contamination and this caused it to be recalled, so it is no longer for sale, nor can it be dispensed in any pharmacy. According to the FDA’s official statement on their website:
“Long-term ingestion of N-nitroso-varenicline may be associated with a theoretical potential increased cancer risk in humans, but there is no immediate risk to patients taking this medication. The health benefits of stopping smoking outweigh the theoretical potential cancer risk from the nitrosamine impurity in varenicline.
Nitrosamines are common in water and foods, including cured and grilled meats, dairy products, and vegetables. Everyone is exposed to some level of nitrosamines. These impurities may increase the risk of cancer if people are exposed to them above acceptable levels over long periods of time.”
If you took Chantix for smoking cessation, I would not think you are in any immediate danger, so try not to worry yourself, but do take action to improve your lifestyle and increase antioxidants in your body. It would be great if you could have basic blood work drawn to make sure you’re healthy and strong.
As a perk, we’ve known for a long time from early studies that hospitalization rates were lower for people with COVID-19 if they smoked! And that the newly recalled drug (varenicline) has some anti-viral activity against SARS-CoV-2 which suggests that the nicotinic cholinergic part of your body is needed to spread the virus!
Am I saying you should smoke? Not at all, I’m just sharing smoking cessation information with you because it’s fascinating and even with all the bad news surrounding the drug, there was still that little perk!
If you smoke, or if you took Chantix for smoking cessation, I highly recommend Vitamin C and Catalase as two antioxidants to fight oxidative damage in the body. These are very strong antioxidants that work all over to do good housekeeping on your cells. Another study from 2020 showed thatD3 levels support a significant role in survival rates with certain types of cancer. You can read more about that study HERE.
I’d also keep an open mind to other methods to help yourself stop smoking. As I mentioned above, bupropion is another medication that is still available for people seeking more help with smoking cessation. Also, there is some research to suggest that ginseng supplementation may help blunt dopamine to some degree, and this could help with nicotine cravings. Lung supportive supplements include bromelain, N.A.C. (N-acetylcysteine), vitamin D, green tea, quercetin, pine bark extract, citrus bioflavonoids (like natural vitamin C), and grape seed extract.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.