Patricia Clow lost her daughter Heidi in 2009. The 21-year-old took her own life while she was using the drug Champix.
Heidi was using it to help her quit smoking, but Patricia says the lack of information about the dangerous side effects means the drug should be pulled off the shelves.
“A lot of other people were taking it, she was very enthusiastic about it, she thought it was helping her,” says Patricia. But after Heidi started using the drug, Patricia received a phone call that Heidi hadn’t shown up for work. She was in the Navy at the time.
She was found dead in her home.
“I had no idea why she had committed suicide,” says Patricia. “I was at a total loss.”
Heidi’s friend was researching about Champix and found out some of the very serious side effects.
“The more I researched the angrier I got,” says Patricia.
The government added Champix to BC Pharmacare in 2011, despite concerns about side effects such as suicide, depression and aggression. The government also refused to allow UBC’s independent drug-testing lab to text Champix, and the province removed funding to that lab last year.
Patricia has now joined efforts to launch a class action lawsuit against Pfizer, the company that makes Champix, and says the drug should be pulled off the shelves now.
“It needs to be taken off the market, it’s destroying lives,” says Patricia.
Heidi had no history of psychiatric disorders.
Patricia is angry Pfizer is playing down the side effects of the drug.
University of Victoria drug policy analyst, Alan Cassels calls the situation ‘inexplicable’.
“When you think about the amount of public money that goes towards some of these products, without even knowing whether they’re achieving the goals. Are people quitting smoking? Are people doing so safely? Are they being harmed in the process? Those are the kinds of things you would need to find out in an evaluation, and if you’re not doing an evaluation, you don’t know.”
Those same questions are now being asked by the opposition.
“The Drug Benefit Council is the new system that we use for listing drugs in British Columbia,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “And don’t forget, this particular drug, as are all the drugs that we look at, go through a common drug review nationally.”