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Some Varenicline Concerns Not Supported by Evidence

And some concerns may have been overstated, researcher says

WEDNESDAY, June 3, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Varenicline (Chantix) doesn't increase the risk of suicidal behavior, mental illness, criminal acts, or traffic accidents, according to a study published June 2 in The BMJ.

Researchers collected data on 69,757 people in Sweden who were prescribed varenicline between 2006 and 2009. When the investigators looked for psychiatric or criminal behaviors linked to the drug, they found it was not associated with significant increases in suicidal behavior, criminal acts, car accidents, traffic offenses, or psychosis.

"Some of the concerns about the safety of Chantix are not supported by evidence," lead researcher Seena Fazel, M.D., a senior research fellow in the psychiatry department at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, told HealthDay. And some concerns may have been overstated, he added.

However, among participants with a history of psychiatric problems, the study found a small increased risk of mood changes and anxiety. And several U.S. health experts said they're reluctant to prescribe varenicline because of unwanted side effects, such as nightmares.

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