The quit smoking drug Chantix may also help problem drinkers cut their alcohol consumption, a small study suggests.

Exactly how this drug curbs drinking is not fully understood, but its use may increase blood pressure, heart rate and feelings of sadness and nausea, thereby blunting the pleasurable effects of alcohol, the researchers said.

"Chantix might reduce alcohol consumption by reducing overall enjoyment of the alcohol drinking experience," said study author Emma Childs, PhD, research associate at the University of Chicago.

"Chantix increased the unpleasant effects of alcohol, for example feeling drowsy and irritable, (and) participants also reported that they didn't like the alcohol effects as much," Dr. Childs said.

Background On Chantix

Approved to help smokers quit in 2006, Chantix (varenicline) has its share of potential side effects. In July 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration mandated that Chantix carry a "black box" warning about the potential risks of depression and suicidal thoughts. Recently, the drug was linked to a small but significant risk of heart attack and stroke among people with pre-existing heart disease. Chantix costs roughly $3 per pill.

Study Details

The study included 15 healthy participants who took part in six sessions. They received a 2-mg dose of Chantix and an inactive placebo, followed three hours later by a beverage containing a placebo, a low dose of alcohol or a high dose of alcohol.

Before and after the sessions, the researchers asked the participants about their mood, tested visual ability and measured physiological responses such as blood pressure and heart rate.

The participants found the Chantix-booze combination increased the unpleasant effects of alcohol and reduced the rewarding aspects of drinking.

The results of the new study were published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.


Whether the drug might someday be approved to help problem drinkers cut back remains to be seen, said the researchers, who acknowledged that the study's small size is a limitation.

"We are not currently performing any studies with Chantix, although other groups are actively pursuing this line of research with a view to developing Chantix as an aid to people wanting to quit or cut down their drinking." Dr. Childs said.

Expert Commentary

Ihsan Salloum, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the alcohol and drug abuse treatment program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, termed the study encouraging.

Noting that new ways of treating alcoholism are much needed, Dr. Salloum said that Chantix may have a niche among smokers with alcohol-dependence issues. "We need a lot more options in terms of medicines to help curb drinking." he said. "We have many options for depression and need more for alcoholism-considering it is one of the most common diseases around the world."

More research is needed, he noted, but this medication may be helpful for people with a drinking problem who are also smokers."

The study was funded by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

New Macular Degeneration Medicine Costs Less and Works Well

New medication for macular degeneration costs less and works as well as Lucentis (ranibizumab). The medication Eylea (aflibercept) treats the wet form of age-related macular degeneration--the major cause of blindness in those over age 55. Eylea can be given once every two months after an initial series of three monthly doses. Eylea costs about $1,850 per dose, compared with about $2,000 per dose for Lucentis (which is administered monthly). Both drugs are injected into the eye with a tiny needle.

Common Antinausea Drug Linked to Heart Problems

The good news is that patients don't tend to get as sick to their stomachs after treatment or surgery as they used to thanks to a drug called Zofran (ondansetron), which has turned out to be very good at quelling nausea—especially the kind caused by chemotherapy. All kinds of patients (not just cancer patients) are given Zofran postoperatively to prevent nausea after general anesthesia.

The bad news is that this drug has now been linked with a health problem that is far more dangerous than transitory nausea-a potentially fatal heart condition. The number of drugs that link to this specific heart condition is well over a dozen, and now Zofran has been added to the list

Does this mean a return to the times when cancer patients were vomiting for days and days following each chemotherapy treatment? Well, nonot yet, anyway.

The FDA hasn't banned Zofran, but after reviewing all available information on Zofran and its potential link to this heart condition, the FDA has ordered GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Zofran, to conduct more thorough research on the drug's potential impact on the heart. In the meantime, the FDA has issued warnings to clinicians that certain types of patients require extra-careful monitoring if they take this drug.

According to the FDA, the people most at risk include…

  • People with underlying heart conditions.
  • People predisposed to low levels of potassium, magnesium and calcium.
  • Patients who are taking other medications that might also trigger high risk of heart failure (prolonged QT intervals). The medication list is surprisingly long and includes drugs in a number of categories such as antihypertensives, antibiotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, gastrointestinal agents and more. Your doctor can work with you on how best to handle drugs on the list that you are taking. (For detailed drug information see http://www.

Other Options For Nausea

According to Andrew L. Rubman, ND, founder and director of Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines in Southbury, Connecticut, nausea is actually a healthy reaction that our bodies produce when a toxin, be it residue from a chemo drug, spoiled food or something else, gets into the digestive system. This reaction, intended to rid your body of the toxin, is triggered when the toxin passes into the duodenum, the upper part of the small intestine that uses enzymes to break down food for digestion.

Zofran stops nausea by interfering with normal digestive processes. In so doing, however, it also disrupts the balance of some important minerals, such as calcium, potassium and magnesium. This is the root of why it may cause the heart problem-calcium, potassium and magnesium in balanced, proper amounts are crucial to the heart's electrical stability.

This heart condition may also be caused by the generic equivalents of Zofran, said Dr. Rubman, and the antinausea drug Kytril (granisetron). Dr. Rubman said he'd like to see doctors-especially those at cancer centers who work with patients after chemotherapy-add a natural approach for helping patients avoid nausea. This natural approach works by binding the chemo residue to get it out of the body quickly without causing mischief in the duodenum.

Natural Ways To Combat Nausea

Here are some natural ways from Dr. Rubman that chemo patients might be able to prevent nausea. He suggests printing this out, talking with your naturopathic physician about the appropriate regimens and then bringing it with you to discuss with your oncologist…

  • B-complex vitamins give the liver additional support in breaking down chemo drugs after they have done their work. Generally, B-12 and B-6 are the most important to take, but they need to be supported by others in the group.
  • Dietary fiber supplements bind and limit the reabsorption of the chemo drug's residue.
  • Ginger supplements may also help. Studies have shown that taking ginger on a specific schedule—including the day before treatment-reduces chemo-induced nausea.

Ease Angina With This Gout Drug

In a recent study of 65 adults with heart disease and stable angina (chest pain that occurs with activity or stress), those who took 600 mg of the gout medication allopurinol (Aloprim) daily for six weeks could exercise longer before chest pain occurred than those who took a placebo.

Theory: Allopurinol blocks a crucial enzyme, reducing oxygen demand during exercise.

If you have stable angina: Ask your doctor about allopurinol. Side effects may include upset stomach, diarrhea and drowsiness.

90% of OTC Thyroid Pills Can Be Dangerous

Thyroid-support pills can be dangerous. People who feel tired or have unexplained weight gain sometimes turn to over-the-counter OTC) thyroid supplements.

But: Nine of the 10 OTC products tested contained the hormone T3...and five contained the hormone T4. These hormones should be used only under a doctor's guidance. Overdoses can lead to heart palpitations, blood pressure abnormalities and other problems.

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