May 13, 2001 - Zyban: New Scrutiny After Nine Deaths
The reported adverse reactions to Zyban, which have included skin reactions, nervous system problems, psychological disturbances and gastro-intestinal illness, might have contributed to nine deaths in Australia, where the drug became available last November.
As many as 3.5 million Australians smoke and more than 200,000 of them are believed to have taken Zyban, a drug which helps to reduce craving for nicotine. In addition to the reported deaths, there have been 400 to 500 adverse reactions to Zyban in the past six weeks alone.
Demand for Zyban was so strong when it became available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in February, that the drug's manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, ran out of supplies for several weeks. In Britain, Zyban has been linked to 37 deaths. The manufacturer has been criticized for failing to give doctors enough information, and has been ordered to clarify its advice to people using the drug in combination with other medicines.
Zyban was originally developed as an anti-depressant in the 1980s. It was first released in the US, where a Los Angeles doctor, Linda Ferry, noticed that her patients who were taking the drug were losing their craving for nicotine. After some initial work, she shared her discovery with GlaxoSmithKline.
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