Why is my government paying for drugs that France won’t touch?

The Premier of my lovely province here on the West Coast of Canada promised during our spring election campaign that her government would pay for prescription drugs or products to help British Columbians quit smoking. But a new report in The Tyee suggests that some of the drugs the province wants to fund are controversial.

One of them, varenicline (which is made by drug giant Pfizer and sold as Champix in Canada and Europe, or as Chantix in the U.S.) has been associated with suicides and severe psychiatric side effects.

In fact, here’s what the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, an American non-profit, said about varenicline in its October 2008 quarterly update:

“Varenicline accounted for more reported serious injuries than any other prescription drug for a second quarter, a total of 1,001 new cases, including 50 additional deaths.”

And the government of France last month announced that it will stop paying for varenicline because of serious questions around its safety. Continue reading