By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
The smoking-cessation drug Chantix has come into the spotlight and allegedly played a crucial role in a second violent crime. On August 8, 2016, a Maryland man was reported to have been found not criminally responsible for shooting his wife in their home in 2014 because he was found to be suffering from “involuntary intoxication” due to the drug Chantix. His wife survived.
In 2015, an Army soldier, who brutally stabbed another soldier to death in 2008, won a new hearing because the judge in his original trial refused to let him put on an involuntary intoxication defense. The soldier claimed that he was so neurologically disturbed by the drug Chantix that he was not aware of what he was doing. A military court then reduced his sentence from life without parole to 45 years. Quite the victory!
See my prior blog in which I discuss the hypnotic and mind altering effects of some sleeping medications from both first hand experience and from watching “The Simpsons.” Click here.
The idea of involuntary intoxication is not a new defense, and not every state or court agrees with it as a defense. The defense did not work in Fairfax County, Virginia, where a man who had invaded another lawyer’s home, took the lawyer and his wife hostage and then stabbed and shot them. He later claimed that his prescribed cocktail of pain and psychiatric medications made him involuntarily intoxicated. A jury disagreed, convicted Andrew Schmuhl and sentenced him to two life sentences plus 98 years. He probably wished he could get that one reduced to a mere 45 years!
Pfizer, the maker of the anti-smoking drug Chantix, has denied that the drug has any neuropsychiatric effects that turn people into essentially walking zombies. We really cannot weigh the scientific evidence here and that is not the purpose of this blog, anyway. But McClatchy News Service reported in 2014 that more than 2,000 people had joined in lawsuits against Pfizer for various psychiatric problems, including suicide and suicidal thoughts. Pfizer has reportedly settled most of them for an estimated total of at least $299 million, McClatchy reported.
Pfizer spokesman Steven Danehy said Tuesday, “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, 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.”
Despite what Pfizer says, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a “black box” warning on Chantix because of its potential for “serious neuropsychiatric” problems. It is the most serious warning a medication can carry and still be sold.
Of course, we feel that any drug with such properties is one which might possibly be used to instill zombie-like characteristics into normal people. Next thing you know, the government will be using it to create zombie troops who will follow orders to attack and kill without questioning them. I think some police departments may already be doing this!
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Jackman, Tom. “The stop-smoking pill made me do it’: Man found not criminally responsible for shooting wife.” The Washington Post. (August 9, 2016). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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