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February 19, 2001 - 18 Anti-Smoking Drug Patients Die

February 19, 2001 - 18 Anti-Smoking Drug Patients Die

The Medicines Control Agency, which is conducting an intensive monitoring program on Zyban, has received reports of 3,457 patients complaining of adverse reactions. The safety of the anti-smoking drug is under investigation, since 18 people had allegedly died while taking the drug.

Since it became available on a prescription basis last June, 270,000 smokers in Britain have been given courses of the drug. Zyban inhibits the craving for cigarettes. Although most side effects are mild, like insomnia, rashes and dry mouth, 73 people might have had seizures, including a Manchester ambulance driver who crashed when responding to an emergency call.

However, there is no medical evidence that Zyban contributed to patients' deaths because all of them smoked and thus, were in a high-risk group. A Department of Health spokesman said: "We have asked GPs to report all suspected adverse reactions. The drug has been widely prescribed and we were expecting a large number of reports."

GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of the drug, said it took reports of adverse reactions to the drug very seriously but found no evidence it was dangerous.

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