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MEDICATION Guide
Varenicline (Chantix/Champix®)

Varenicline (Chantix/Champix®)

What is the treatment duration?
It is recommended you take Chantix® a full 12 weeks. If you have completely quit smoking by 12 weeks, your doctor might suggest another 12 weeks of Chantix® to further strengthen your quit. If you have not stopped smoking at the end of 12 weeks, talk to your doctor and/or your quit-smoking coach. They can work with you to uncover weak spots in your quit plan, and help get you ready to try again.

What are the adverse reactions and cautionary messages?
Nausea is the most common side effect associated with varenicline, affecting about 30% of users (but resulting in less than 3% discontinuation rates). Insomnia appears to be substantially less of a problem for Chantix®/Champix® users than for users of bupropion (Zyban®). Other reported side effects include headaches, trouble sleeping, unusual dreams, flatulence (gas), and changes in taste.

Be sure to tell your doctor if you have a history of mental illness or history of suicidal behavior/thoughts, cardiovascular disease or decreased kidney function (dose may need to be decreased).

FDA Advisory: There may be a small, increased risk of certain cardiovascular adverse events in patients who have cardiovascular disease. More studies are underway to investigate this. Contact your healthcare professional if you experience new or worsening symptoms of cardiovascular disease while taking Chantix, such as:

  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • New or worsening chest pain
  • New or worse pain in legs when walking

In responding to one review that showed a small increased risk of cardiovascular effects, Dr. Hays of the Mayo Clinic noted, "However, the risk for serious cardiovascular adverse effects is low and is greatly outweighed by the benefits of diminishing the truly "heartbreaking" effects of smoking."

FDA Advisory: In persons with mental health issues, especially depression, there have been reports of serious neuropsychiatric adverse events, including, depression, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and completed suicide. Immediately stop taking Chantix® and contact a healthcare professional if you experience agitation, hostility, depressed mood, or changes in behavior or thinking, or if you develop suicidal ideation or suicidal behavior.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an advisory on Chantix® after a 2008 FDA advisory cautioning against driving or operating machinery until patients know how Chantix® affects them. FMCSA regulations for interstate truck and bus drivers prohibit the use of drugs that adversely affect the driver's ability to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle, and has advised medical examiners not to certify drivers taking Chantix®.

Also, in 2008, the FAA ordered pilots and air traffic controllers to stop taking Chantix® after the Institute for Safe Medication Practices released a study that found indications of seizures, heart attacks, loss of consciousness, vision problems and psychiatric instabilities in Chantix® users.

If you are considering using varenicline, first read this information from the National Institutes of Health and see your doctor:

To read more about safety and the FDA Advisories :

Hays JT. CMAJ. Varenicline for smoking cessation: is it a heartbreaker? 2011 Sep 6;183(12):1346-7.


Content author: Alan S. Peters, CTTS-M
Reviewed by: Ann Wendling, MD, MPH, April 2013



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Varenicline (aka Chantix®/Champix®)
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