One late autumn evening in 2009, a young Canadian woman mixed up a deadly concoction. She hadn't intended to but she inadvertantly took her own life.
Heidi Clow was a bright, smiling 22 year old woman who had turned into a scowling, irritable person. She mixed up some aspirin and sinus medication into her protein shake. She had wanted to get healthy and get the most out of life by quitting smoking.
The pharmacist who filed the adverse reaction report listed a one-word suspect: "Champix". Champix is the Canadian name for Chantix, a smoking-cessation drug that the FDA listed as a suicide risk in 2009.
The FDA didn't say "Stop taking this drug". They just said be careful. Are you kidding me?
But remember, this was Canada. The Toronto Star ran an investigation and revealed that Health Canada (drug watchdog) has refused to say whether they have even bothered to investigate Heidi's death or many others that have been linked to this drug. The Star's investigation further shows that Health Canada stopped bothering with individual cases after looking into 14 cases in 2007. Since then, the drug has been linked to 24 more suicides and 450 serious cases of aggression, depression and suicidal thoughts.
Several doctors have urged investigation, but the authorities maintain that the benefits somehow outweigh these deadly risks and there is no proof that the drug is causing the behavior. They suggest that the safety label is enough.
Really! I'll bet that Heidi's friends and family would disagree.
Once that Health Canada was called out, they quickly changed their tune, stating that they have "conducted several reviews of Champix." But they won't release any details of their reviews.
So what happened to the people who stopped taking Champix? No one knows. Health Canada is keeping their mouth shut.
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