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Woman to sue Pfizer over Champix

A woman whose father’s suicide was allegedly linked to his usage of Champix is considering suing Pfizer.

A woman whose father’s suicide was allegedly linked to his usage of Champix is considering suing Pfizer. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - A woman who believes her father's suicide was directly linked to him using smoking cessation drug, Champix, on Wednesday told 567 CapeTalk that she and her family were in the process of taking legal action against pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

South African Air Force pilot lieutenant-colonel Gavin Willard (54) shot himself dead last year October, less than six months after he started using Champix, which US researches have directly linked to psychiatric problems and aggression.

His daughter Kerrie told 567 CapeTalk that they were considering suing drug manufacturing company Pfizer because her father decided to take Champix "with the intention of living a healthier, longer life".

She said the drug was recommended to her father because his arteries were not looking well.

Gavin was not prone to depression before using Champix, said Kerrie, adding that he was a "stable" man who lived a good and financially sound life.

She said there was "no source of mental illness or instability" and that Gavin's job required him to undergo yearly mental evaluations.

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

"He was very excited about quitting smoking," said Kerrie.

Gavin took the drug for three weeks before he "fell violently ill" and suffered from nausea, diahorrea and stomach pains.

He then stopped using the drug for two weeks and took his life several days later.

"Anyone who is planning a suicide is not going to polish their shoes before going to bed, they're not going to say goodbye and they are not going to plan trips for next year," an emotional Kerrie said.

"For me and my family, his sudden death is just a very hard one for us to deal with."

WILLARD EXPERIENCED MORE SYMPTOMS

During the three weeks that Gavin used Champix, Kerrie said "He was not acting too much out of the normal.

"Maybe a little more subdued and tense, but not anything out of the ordinary."

She said he was just suffering from what they believed to be a stomach bug.

But Gavin's daughter said closer to his death, they noticed an alarming pattern.

"He would wake up at odd hours of the night, he would talk to ornaments, he would have strange outbursts of anger and emotions, but when confronted, he would not remember a thing about it."

Kerrie said Gavin also started to forget having done activities with his wife during the day.

"Unfortunately when you are in that frame of mind, you don't put it down to a pill …. and unfortunately none of us did until it was too late."

'CHAMPIX IS EXCELLENT IN HELPING YOU TAKE YOUR LIFE'

US researchers have linked Champix to suicides and depression, but Pfizer says these studies are flawed.

It says a direct link between Champix and psychiatric problems has not been officially made and that nicotine withdrawal can lead to behavioural changes.

At the weekend, it was reported that Pfizer recently conducted clinical trials that found Champix did not cause these side effects.

The City Press quoted Pfizer spokesperson Leigh Gunkel-Keuler as saying: "Pfizer is now conducting a large double-blind placebo-controlled safety clinical trial of Champix to assess neuropsychiatric safety in patients with and without psychiatric disorders, and results are expected in 2017."

Reports linking suicides to Champix first emerged in 2007 the US and the UK.

France banned the distribution of the drug in 2010.

Kerrie said the company should take the drug off the shelves while they conducted trials and that she would approach the courts if they failed to do so.

"I will not let this lie because it is taking lives…

"It's not going to bring my dad back … but if it can just save one life."

Nearing tears, Kerrie said, "Champix is excellent in helping you quit smoking. If you take Champix you will quit smoking, but it is also excellent in helping you take your life."

Pfizer's chief executive officer, Brian Daniel, was due to speak on the Kieno Kammies Breakfast Show on Tuesday, but cancelled the interview after the company's legal team advised against it.