Over the past few days, Pfizer started recalling an increasing number of lots of Chantix, a prescription medication designed to help people stop smoking. The batches are being recalled due to the presence of N-nitroso-varenicline.
N-nitroso-varenicline is a carcinogen when consumed in excess quantities. Still, the risk to adults on the medication appears to be incredibly low. As is typically the case with cases like this, the recall is rooted in an abundance of caution as opposed to a looming danger.
What is Chantix
Before diving into the Pfizer recall, let’s quickly highlight what the drug in question is. Chantix is an anti-smoking drug that has been around for more than a decade. As opposed to helping users quit smoking immediately, it works slowly over time. When all goes well, users stop smoking in about three months.
Chantix works by attaching to nicotine receptors in the brain. When a person on Chantix smokes, the nicotine cannot attach to the receptors. As a result, smokers don’t experience the same pleasure.
Pfizer calls the cancer risk is low
The FDA notes that the ingredient at issue in the Pfizer recall is often in food and water. Some examples include grilled meats, dairy products, and vegetables. So while nitrosamines aren’t uncommon, prolonged exposure to unacceptable levels can increase the risk of cancer.
“Long-term ingestion of N-nitroso-varenicline may be associated with a theoretical potential increased cancer risk in humans, but there is no immediate risk to patients taking this medication,” Pfizer said in a statement
Pfizer went on to say that “the health benefits of stopping smoking outweigh the theoretical potential cancer risk from the nitrosamine impurity in varenicline”. With verbiage like that, it certainly seems like Pfizer angry about the recall. It stands to reason that Pfizer, perhaps, views it as excessive.
Incidentally, smoking can exacerbate the symptoms of COVID-19. Consequently, there has never been a better or smarter time to stop smoking.
FDA statement on Pfizer recall
A list of impacted Chantix lots can be viewed here. It’s also worth noting that there have been no reported cases of Chantix users experiencing any issues.
The FDA adds that if you’re on Chantix, you should talk with your doctor or pharmacy to see if you have an impacted lot. If you have an impacted lot, the FDA advises you to call Stericycle Inc. at 888-276-6166. The line is operational Monday through Friday from 8 am through 5 pm ET. Impacted users can return the product for a refund.