Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Biggest Chantix News: Pfizer's $12.3 Million Buys No News

By now most of you have heard about this recent study linking the use of Pfizer's anti-smoking drug Chantix with a small increase in heart attacks and arrhythmias. The meta-analysis of 14 double-blind controlled trials indicates that in patients without a history of heart disease, Chantix increases the rate of serious cardiac events from 0.82% of those assigned to placebo to 1.06% of those on Chantix. This is not a huge increase, but considering the millions of people who are prescribed the drug yearly, it could amount to a large public health problem.

Another piece of big news (to those of us who follow the world of industry-supported CME) is the fact the Pfizer-funded smoking cessation program, CS2day (Cease Smoking Today) doesn't mention the study on its website. Recall that CS2day was announced with much fanfare in 2008, when Dr. George Mejicano convinced Pfizer to pay $12.3 million for a national CME program to educate doctors about how to help patients quit smoking (see the Medical Meetings article here). The program was quickly criticized for not disclosing Chantix's many side effects in one of its CME programs.

Given that this new meta-analysis is hitting most major news outlets, you would think that the multi-million dollar CME website could find a writer to post something about the study. But apparently this is something Pfizer would prefer that physicians not get continually medically educated about.

File under: CME programs that are noncompliant with AMA's new ethical guidelines.