Truckers on Chantix can't be licensed

Trucking regulators have joined the FAA in banning Pfizer's stop-smoking drug among its drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration yesterday said Chantix patients shouldn't be qualified for trucking licenses while using the med. Yesterday, you'll recall, the FAA told pilots and air traffic controllers they couldn't take Chantix, either.

Why now? The Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a watchdog group, issued a report linking Chantix not only to psychiatric side effects already identified, but to a list of other safety problems. Including accidents--which is what makes the transportation folks nervous. The report explicitly stated that people operating heavy machinery might want to think twice before taking the drug.

Pfizer has taken a rational approach to the report, pointing out that millions of people around the world have used Chantix. In that large a population, even the "infrequent" or "rare" effects listed on the drug's label are likely to show up repeatedly. Plus, as the WSJ Health Blog points out, smoking itself is a major risk. If you can't quit any other way, maybe Chantix's benefits outweigh the risks.

Some doctors appear to be taking that line, saying they're prescribing Chantix, but only to people who've already tried other ways to quit, such as the nicotine patch. That's one reason why new scrips have fallen by a third since February's FDA warning, and Wall Street analysts are expecting big declines in sales over time. Not good news for Pfizer, which counted Chantix among its few recent success stories. But that's another article for another day.

- see the WSJ story
- check out the WSJ Health Blog item