Chantix is a popular prescription drug that is used to help people quit smoking. In 2021, all .5 and 1 mg tablets of Chantix were recalled after it was discovered that they contained dangerously high levels of a known carcinogen called NDMA. A number of consumer class action lawsuits have since been filed against Pfizer alleging that consumers were defrauded by the company’s failure to warn about NDMA contamination.
Chantix (varenicline) is popular prescription drug used in combination with counseling and other techniques to help people quit smoking. Chantix works by reducing the physical cravings and withdraw that occur when someone with a nicotine addiction attempts to quit smoking.
Chantix stimulates the same receptors in the brain that are triggered when someone intakes nicotine from smoking. This has proven to be very effective a eliminating the craving for a cigarette when someone is trying to quit smoking. Studies have shown that Chantrix is the most effective medicine for smoking cessation, with Chantrix users 3 times more likely to quite smoking within 6 months compared to a control group.
Chantrix was originally developed and patented as a smoking cessation drug by Pfizer and approved by the FDA in 2006. Chantix was patent protected until 2020 when the original patents expired and generic varenicline drugs became available on the market. Chantix is generally used for anywhere from 12 to 30 weeks at a time.
Discovery of NDMA in Chantix
In July 2021, Pfizer announced that it was recalling nine lots of Chantrix after it was discovered that these lots of the drug contained dangerously high levels of N-Nitroso-dimethylamine (NDMA). NDMA is a notorious human carcinogen that has been scientifically linked to numerous types of cancer. NDMA is the same cancer-causing chemical that was found in Zantac, prompting a sweeping recall of that popular heartburn drug.
Two weeks after the initial recall of nine Chantrix lots, Pfizer expanded its recall to 12 lots of Chantrix that also contained NDMA in excess of maximum safe levels. The expanded recall came after further testing and investigation revealed that the NDMA contamination in Chantix was more widespread than initially assumed. The recall notice advised consumers not to use medication covered by the recall.
A few months later, in September 2021, Pfizer expanded the Chantix recall yet again. This time, Pfizer recalled all lots of .5 and 1 mg Chantix tablets due to NDMA contamination.
Chantix Class Action Lawsuits
Just like the discovery of NDMA in Zantac, the discovery of high levels of NDMA in Chantix and the subsequent recall caused major concerns and prompted a number of consumer class action lawsuits. A motion to consolidate these consumer class action Chantix cases into an MDL is currently pending before the JPML.
When NDMA was discovered in Zantac, however, a large number of Zantac cancer lawsuits were filed in the wake of the recall. These lawsuits were filed by people who regularly used Zantac (either prescription or over-the-counter) for long time periods and subsequently developed cancer.
A similar, but much smaller, wave of product liability lawsuits followed the discovery of NDMA in Valsartan. Just like the Zantac cases, the Valsartan lawsuits were filed by long-term users of the drug alleging that the exposure to NDMA caused them to develop cancer.
So far, however, the Chantix NDMA contamination has only led to consumer class action cases. This is partly because Chantix is a short-term medication, with prescriptions never lasting longer than 6-months. That is arguably not long enough for NDMA exposure to lead to cancer, which is why we haven’t seen a big flood of personal injury Chantix cases.