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Chantix, painkillers and the lessons learned

July 07, 2011|By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Medications, even over-the-counter ones, carry the risk of side effects. The anti-smoking drug Chantix, as well as several common painkillers, are just recent examples.
Medications, even over-the-counter ones, carry the risk of side effects.… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

The stop-smoking drug Chantix and common-as-candy pain relievers are both making headlines this week. And they both offer a reminder of something most people ignore: Drugs, even seemingly benign ones, aren’t -- they can all have side effects. Don’t believe us? Pick a drug, any drug.

The FDA warned last month that the quit-smoking drug Chantix might increase the risk of heart problems, and a larger study this week found that Chantix increased the risk of heart attack or arrhythmia by 72% in smokers and smokeless tobacco users.

Further, a study on Monday linked ingredients in common painkillers, including the brand names Advil, Motrin, Aleve and Celebrex, with an increased risk of abnormal heart rhythms.

Think these drugs are alone in their side effects? They’re not. Check out the side effects of the most commonly prescribed drugs, including an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior for some antidepressants. Heartburn drugs, allergy drugs, asthma drugs – they’re all on the list.

Even aspirin can have side effects. Heartburn, nausea, upset stomach are the common ones, but some people can experience vomiting, diarrhea, or severe allergic reactions that make it hard to breathe. 

None of the research suggests that people shouldn’t take drugs. But they do serve as a reminder that a seeming quick fix might not be as powerful, or as healthy, as a more permanent lifestyle change.

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