Ask the Pharmacist
By Ron and Marla Chapleau
Health & Fitness
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Q) Is Champix safe to take?
A) Champix (varenicline) is a drug designed to help people stop smoking.
It works by acting on the centres in the brain that respond to nicotine, but in a far less stimulating manner. In doing so, patients find smoking to be significantly less pleasurable and are more inclined to quit. It also helps decrease the side effects of withdrawal from nicotine.
It is thought to be the most effective agent in use today, and can be combined with the “patch, “gum” or Zyban (the other widely-used smoking cessation medication) for a greater chance of success.
Traditionally, the main downside was its potential to cause nausea (possibly as much as 30 per cent of the time) but this can be alleviated by taking the Champix with food and plenty of fluid, and increasing the dosage more slowly.
Champix has been associated with serious mood disorder symptoms (severe depression, irrational behaviour) but it is thought that this association may also, in part, be related to the nicotine withdrawal which has been known to bring on depression, anxiety, irritability and sleeplessness.
Now there is a new concern of a possible increased risk of cardiac events with Champix in patients who have already been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease (any disease of the heart or blood vessels, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.).
A recent review found that these types of patients' risk increased by one per cent of suffering from chest pain, irregular heartbeat, heart attack and stroke while on Champix. Obviously this is a very small increase, but more studies are being launched to further illuminate this issue.
Bear in mind that smoking also increases the risk of cardiac events and that people with heart disease who quit smoking cut their risk of death by 36 per cent within three to seven years.
Champix is now finally covered on the Ontario Drug Benefit Program which would include people who are on the Trillium Drug Plan, are over 65 years old or require financial assistance from the government.
For more information about this or any other health-related questions, contact the pharmacists at Gordon Pharmasave, Your Health and Wellness Destination
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Sunday, August 07, 2011