Ten dead used anti-smoke drug
TEN Australians, two of whom committed suicide, have died after taking the anti-smoking drug Zyban, the government drug regulator has revealed.
Zyban has not been proved as the cause of death but all the patients had been taking it at the time of death.
The drug manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, may be sued by some of the 780 patients who have suffered after taking Zyban.
Plaintiff law firm Maurice Blackburn Cashman confirmed yesterday it had been approached by patients who had suffered side-effects ranging from headaches to skin rashes and seizures.
Among the 10 Zyban patients who have died since November 2000, when the drug was launched on the market, two committed suicide, two had cardiac arrests, one a stroke and one a pulmonary embolism (a clot on the lung).
The Australian Adverse Drug Reactions Advisory Committee will investigate the deaths, and is awaiting coroners' reports and other clinical results before any link with Zyban can be established.
Anti-smoking groups and the Australian Medical Association defended the drug yesterday.
All smokers were at great risk of health problems, said Mike Daube, chairman of Cancer Council Australia's tobacco committee.
"These deaths could have been people who were going to have heart attacks next week anyway and they felt the symptoms and decided to stop smoking," Mr Daube said.
AMA vice-president Trevor Mudge said the fewer than 800 problem cases reported out of more than 200,000 prescriptions was not a cause for excessive alarm.
"The majority of those cases were skin rashes and psychological problems which were probably related to going cold turkey on nicotine in the first place," Dr Mudge said.
The drug, whose clinical name is bupropion hydrochloride, is claimed to suppress the desire for nicotine by limiting the brain's production of chemicals noradrenaline and dopamine.