Musician's Death Raises Concerns For Stop-Smoking Pill - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

9/19/2007

Musician's Death Raises Concerns For Stop-Smoking Pill

Chantix was unveiled last year to raves from doctors and success stories of smokers who quit while taking it. Now, the pill is raising new concerns after a musician's death.

Carter Albrecht of Dallas was shot dead while knocking on a neighbors door, apparently suffering nightmarish hallucinations. Hallucinations, loved ones say were caused by the drug.

Albrecht and his girlfriend were both prescribed Chantix after he was ordered to quit smoking.

"We decided that we would do it together because we decided that we wanted to quit," said Ryann Rathbone, Carter's girlfriend.

Ryann says almost immediately they both started having vivid, often-frightening dreams- A known side effect of the medication. 

"Nightmare kind of. Hallucianation kind of dreams where you don't know if it's real or not," said Ryann.

About a week into taking Chantix, after a night of drinks, Albrecht started hallucinating for real.

"And the things that he was saying did not make any sense. It was like he was in a nightmare."

A nightmare that soon ended. Albrecht reportedly wandered into a neighbors yard and was shot.

"I was thinking there is no way. There's no way there's no way," said Ryann.

Online we found Chantix users in East Texas, this one, Kyla in Tyler "I do wake up a lot in the night but I am able to go right back to sleep. I do have the "weird dreams" all night but I still feel rested when I get up. I have had some trouble the last few nights sleeping but before that it was great."

Pharmacy handouts warn of nausea, stomach problems, and changes in dreaming. But in extreme fine print of the original box insert- is there mention of psychotic and suicidal behavior.

One local doctor said because of the way Chantix works they recommend screening for inherent psychological problems.

But other local doctors disagree.

 "A patient that is using tobacco more as a psyciatric drug. If you give them a medication that allows them to stop smoking I suspect what you see is a bubbling up of an inherent problem and not necessarily a reaction to the chantix itself," said Dr James Stocks of UTHCT.

"As far as major side effects I haven't experienced that with our patients," said Mark Sullivan, Owner of Good's Pharmacy in Tyler, "We have seen a lot of success. I would say 75% of the people we have talked to here in this area have had great success with using Chantix."

"If that means saving other people's lives by getting the word out about Chantix and the complications or the side effects then that's what I want," said Ryann.

Pfizer, the drugs maker, released a statement saying to date data doesn't suggest a relationship between Chantix and violent behavior.

Danielle Capper, Reporting dcapper@kltv.com

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