Coast Guard issues safety warning on quit-smoking drug

The following is a safety alert issued by the U.S. Coast Guard:
On May 21, 2008, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices released a
> report on side effects and concerns associated with the use of Chantix
> (varenicline).  Chantix is a medication used to help patients quit
> smoking.  To date, over four million prescriptions have been written in
> the United States.
> The Institute for Safe Medication Practices report states the following:
> There are immediate safety concerns about the use of Chantix among persons
> operating aircraft, trains, buses, and other vehicles, or in other
> settings where a lapse in alertness or motor control could lead to
> massive, serious injury.  Other examples include persons operating nuclear
> power reactors, high-rise construction cranes or life-sustaining medical
> devices.  Based on reports of sudden loss of consciousness, seizures,
> muscle spasms, vision disturbances, hallucinations, paranoia and
> psychosis, Chantix may not be safe to use in these settings.  The extent
> to which Chantix has already contributed to accidental death and injury
> has not been fully investigated and reported.  For additional information
> access – .
> Although not specifically mentioned in the report, the maritime domain is
> one setting where lapses in alertness or motor control can have
> catastrophic results.  The safety of the maritime community and the
> public, and the protection of the environment are paramount.  Ensuring
> that medications prescribed do not put mariners and others at increased
> risk of injury or death is essential.
> The Coast Guard reminds all maritime industry personnel that mariners
> should not perform a safety-sensitive function on any vessel while under
> the influence of any substance that may negatively impact their
> performance.  To that end, mariners are strongly warned that some
> prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and
> dietary supplements, alone or in combination with other substances, may
> adversely affect an individual’s ability to perform critical functions and
> place the individual at risk of sudden incapacitation.  Mariners should
> seek the advice of their healthcare provider before taking any
> medications, vitamins or dietary supplements.
> If you are currently taking or have recently discontinued the use of
> Chantix, we strongly recommend that you consult with your healthcare
> provider to discuss potential side effects and your job performance
> requirements.  You and your healthcare provider should be alert to and
> monitor for all physical and psychological changes that may affect your
> performance, both while taking this medication as well as during the
> withdrawal period.  If you are experiencing any of the psychiatric,
> cardiologic, musculoskeletal or visual side effects associated with
> Chantix, you should immediately cease performance of all duties related to
> your mariner credentials and contact your healthcare provider.
> Questions regarding this notice may be addressed to Lieutenant Junior
> Grade Elizabeth Braker, Medical Evaluation Branch, Coast Guard National
> Maritime Center at (304) 433-3656 or
> This safety alert is provided for informational purpose only and does not
> relieve any domestic or international safety, operational or material
> requirement.
By Professional Mariner Staff