Mental health effects of varenicline - new findings

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Goodfellow Gems

"Mental health effects of varenicline - new findings"

A systematic review, March 2015 BMJ1 found no evidence of an increased risk of suicide, suicidal attempt or ideation or depression with varenicline, and provides some reassurance regarding its neuropsychiatric safety. Varenicline’s (well recognised) side effects were noted as a higher risk of insomnia and abnormal dreams but a lower risk of anxiety. The authors were independent of pharmaceutical companies. There was no difference between industry and non-industry studies.

In a subsequent BMJ editorial2 it is noted that that some community concerns may be real due to regular patients using the varenicline as opposed to those “healthier” patients in clinical trials. Also suicide is very rare and the review may not have the power to detect a true effect. The author’s advice is to warn patients of risks and advise them to discuss any changes in mental health with the doctor and consider stopping varenicline.

  1. http://www.bmj.com/content/350/bmj.h1109
  2. http://www.bmj.com/content/350/bmj.h1168

Gems are chosen by the Goodfellow director Dr. Bruce Arroll to be either practice changing or practice maintaining. The information is educational and not clinical advice.


As published in NZ Doctor 27/05/2015