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Posted at 04:33 PM on Thursday, June 19, 2008 by post5549
WASHINGTON (June 19, 2008) - "Enough is enough," said George J. Lisicki, the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., in response to today's Washington Times article that provides additional information about the potential lethal effect a prescribed drug is having on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder-diagnosed veterans who volunteered for a Department of Veterans Affairs smoking cessation program.
"Those in the VA who failed to properly serve America's veterans must resign their positions," said Lisicki, a Vietnam veteran from Carteret, N.J. "If not, then the VA secretary must take decisive action to terminate them."
The smoking cessation research program uses the drug Chantix, which Food and Drug Administration officials say helps people to stop smoking, but according to a Washington Times/ABC News investigative report on Tuesday, Chantix has also been linked to almost 40 suicides and more than 400 incidents of suicidal behavior. The drug's manufacturer and the FDA have recently cautioned healthcare providers about adverse side effects that could produce changes in behavior ranging from anxiety and depression to suicide.
All 940 veterans enrolled in the VA's smoking cessation program have PTSD. A test group of 143 of them were prescribed Chantix, which is also known as Varenicline.
Lisicki questions why VA clinicians who knew of Chantix's hazardous side effects would allow veterans suffering from PTSD to continue taking it, because "professional ethics and common sense just dictates that clinicians would stop their patients from taking the drug just to err on the side of safety for the veterans and their families," he said. As of May 21, the Federal Aviation Administration banned the use of Chantix by airline pilots and air traffic controllers.
The VFW national commander also questions the leadership ability of those who oversee these types of medical research programs, asks why it took the VA two more days before revealing additional details of those in the study; and wonders what other information has yet to be uncovered. Aside from Chantix, other drugs that are were reported to currently being used to treat veterans with PTSD are the anticonvulsant Divalproex, and the antidepressants Paroxetine, Mirtazapine and Citalopram, all of which carry warnings of potential suicidal side effects.
"The VA is known for quality healthcare that is delivered by highly trained and educated medical professionals and staff, but in recent weeks, the American public has read stories accusing the department of not properly taking care of veterans with mental health problems, to include veterans attempting suicide under VA care. These stories, to include the well-documented veterans' claims backlog, are having a negative cumulative effect on the overall image of the VA," said Lisicki.