FAA Bans Chantix Anti-Smoking Aid for Pilots, Controllers

The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered pilots and air traffic controllers to stop taking the anti-smoking medicine Chantix after a medical safety group, the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, released a study that found evidence for seizures, loss of consciousness, heart attacks, vision problems, and "various psychiatric instabilities" in people taking it.

"Approximately 150 pilots and 30 controllers are known to use the medication, although the exact number isn't known," FAA said in its May 23 announcement, which said the agency had sent a notice to all registered pilots and controllers, alerted all aviation medication examiners across the country, and notified major pilot associations and the air traffic controllers union, NATCA.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-made drug for sale in 2006 and FAA approved it for pilot and controller use in July 2007. Employees who reached the maximum dose at that time were required to wait 72 hours before working and had to have a physician's letter. FAA Federal Air Surgeon Fred Tilton said he was aware of the anecdotal information circulating about Chantix but chose to rely on hard data as it became available. "There were indications, but no clear data," he said. "We don't just act indiscriminately." When more conclusive data was published this week, Tilton's Office of Aerospace Medicine sent the notices.

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