June 2014 – Smoking cessation drug Champix ‘likely induced’ man’s violent episode

An unusual case is raising the alarm on a common drug used to help smokers kick the habit.

The drug is called Champix and is made by Pfizer.

A Winnipeg man was taking it before a psychotic episode assaulting the woman he lived with.

Those who know him, say it was behaviour completely out of the ordinary — and a judge agreed.

In 2011, Malcolm Gallant, now 30, assaulted the woman he lived with in a home near the corner of Olive St. and Lodge Ave. He had been taking Champix.

A court heard that watching this program about military counter terrorism, Gallant began displaying bizarre behaviour.

His partner found him with a shirt ripped into pieces. He chased her, choked her, and after she escaped, he terrified neighbours, showing up at their doorstep armed with a shotgun.

But the judge, Justice Shawn Greenberg decided he shouldn’t go to jail…saying “the bizarre behaviour … was likely induced by a drug called Champix which he had been taking to assist him in quitting smoking.”

Smoker Cindy Nicholls lives on the same street the incident took place. She said she has tried everything to quit smoking, but nothing has worked. She said she was interested in trying Champix until hearing Gallant’s story.

“Believe or not I was giving serious consideration to trying the Champix, but now knowing it could cause that, I’m defintley not going to try it.

Professionals here say one bad story doesn’t change how effective the drug is at helping people stop smoking.

After the 12-week profile, usually about 50 percent (people quit smoking), sometimes it drops to 35 per cent, but it’s the best thing out there, said Steven Burczynski, who dispenses the drug at Broadway Pharmacy.

Health Canada said people who are thinking about taking Champix, should try nicotine replacements first, such as patches and gum, and advices patients learn about the side effects of the drug with their doctor.

I think what is really important for people to know is that all medication has potential for side effects and that people who have a history of mental health issues or a family history should be discussing the benefits vs risk whenever considering a new medication,” said Nicole Chammartin, Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association – Winnipeg Region. “It is important for all of us to be informed consumers.


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