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Heart risk link to smoking drug

An anti-smoking pill used by thousands of Britons increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke by at least 72 per cent, research has suggested.

Champix (varenicline) is a prescription-only medicine that works by citting cravings and accounted for 955,242 prescriptions in England in 2010. Fears had previously been raised after patients reported depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety, but a new study has said the drug is associated with a "significantly increased risk of serious adverse cardiovascular events", such as heart attack and stroke, when compared with placebo.

The research, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, analysed data for more than 8,000 people from 14 medical trials. A total of 52 of 4,908 people on the drug had adverse events compared with 27 of 3,308 people on placebo, though there was no difference in death rates.