Chantix: R&D Chief MacKay’s Personal Opinion

Pfizer Research Chief’s Personal Take on Chantix
Posted by Scott Hensley
With questions about the safety of anti-smoking pill Chantix hurting sales, Pfizer’s head of R&D took to the opinion pages of the local paper in support of the medicine over the weekend.

Martin Mackay

Martin Mackay

Martin Mackay (pictured) wrote in the Day of New London, Conn., about his firsthand experience with the health toll of “cigarette addiction, having watched both of my parents smoke for most of their adult lives and my mother die of lung disease.”

His basic message was in keeping with points the company hit last week in a roundtable meeting with journalists. Quitting smoking is important, but hard. Chantix, despite some risks, remains a safe and effective option, in Pfizer’s view.

The drugmaker has upgraded the cautions on Chantix’s instructions to advise patients to stop taking Chantix in case of agitation, depression, or unusual behavior. Thoughts of suicide are a particular worry. A heightened concern about risk from Chantix led the FAA to ban the use of the drug by pilots and air-traffic controllers last month.

In his Chantix defense, Mackay couldn’t stop with data alone. He invoked some hometown pride in Chantix, one of Pfizer’s “homegrown” medicines.

The active ingredient in Chantix was invented by scientists in labs in Groton, Conn., on the eastern bank of the Thames River. On the opposite shore, in New London, other Pfizer workers designed and ran the clinical tests that led to the FDA’s approval of Chantix in May 2006. Pfizer employs 6,000 people in the area.

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