Pfizer halts distribution of anti-smoking drug after finding carcinogen

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Pfizer Inc said on Thursday it is pausing distribution of its anti-smoking treatment, Chantix, after finding elevated levels of cancer-causing agents called nitrosamines in the pills.

The drugmaker is recalling a number of lots of the anti-smoking drug. The U.S. drug regulator has in the past reached out to companies whose drugs had N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) over accepted levels.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year found high levels of NDMA in some versions of the popular diabetes drug metformin. NDMA contamination was responsible for the recall of heartburn drug Zantac sold by Sanofi SA in 2019.

Chantix was approved by the FDA in May 2006 as a prescription medication which, along with support, helps adults aged 18 and over quit smoking and is used for 12 to 24 weeks.

Global revenue from the drug fell 17% to $919 million in 2020 as COVID-19 curbs hampered demand and the company lost patent protection in the United States in November.

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