Last Monday, a Maryland man accused of shooting his wife was not found criminally responsible due to involuntary intoxication from the stop-smoking pill Chantix. Believe it or not, the lawyers for Keith E. Sluder, 44, are not the first to use this strange defense for clients accused of attempted murder. And perhaps even more alarming, the strategy seems to be working. The very next day, the judge immediately released Sluder against the pleas of the shooting victim and her family.
Chantix is manufactured by Pfizer which denies any accusations that the stop-smoking drug causes any negative neuropsychiatric effects. However, a May 2014 news story published in Stars and Stripes claims that more than 2,000 people have filed similar lawsuits against Pfizer in the past, including allegations that Chantix has led to suicidal thoughts and failed suicide attempts. Regarding the Sluder case of last week, a Pfizer spokesperson issued the following statement.
“There is no reliable scientific evidence that Chantix causes serious neuropsychiatric events. In fact, the largest global clinical trial of smoking cessation medications, including varenicline (Chantix), bupropion and nicotine replacement patch, which was ordered by the FDA and recently published in The Lancet also ‘did not show a significant increase in serious neuropsychiatric adverse events attributable to varenicline compared to placebo and nicotine replacement patch.’”
Chantix also played a major role in a military murder of 2008
In 2008, Pfc. George D.B. MacDonald was found guilty of murder after fatally stabbing new recruit Rick Bulmer as he lay sleeping in his bunk. The crime was particularly vicious, and MacDonald claimed to have no motive or reason to commit the murder. He further claimed that Chantix made him temporarily delusional, resulting in his slashing the throat of the unsuspecting victim. MacDonald was later found guilty of murder in 2009 and sentenced to life in a military prison.
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In 2014, MacDonald was granted a new hearing due to the mounting lawsuits being filed against Pfizer with similar allegations of mind-altering side effects. Pfizer was subpoenaed to testify in the case, but the Big Pharma company refused. And for some strange reason, the judge did not forced Pfizer to comply. As a result, a plea agreement was reached, and MacDonald’s charge was downgraded to unpremeditated murder with a reduced sentence of 45 years.
Within one week of the final judgment, the FDA issued a “black box” warning for Chantix because of its potential for “serious neuropsychiatric” problems. In short, by not forcing Big Pharma’s Pfizer to testify in the MacDonald re-trial, the judge essentially allowed the drug company to get away with murder. The FDA also received enough advanced notice to place the black box warning on all Chantix packaging to make Pfizer immune to such lawsuits in the future. Coincidence?
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