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Statement for the Record of VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA
Concerning The Smoking Cessation Drug Chantix

July 9, 2008

GoChairman Filner, Ranking Member Buyer, and members of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Vietnam Veterans of America (WA) would like to submit the following for the record concerning the subject of today's hearing.

It is an indisputable fact that far too many veterans, particularly those who have
experienced combat and those who have seen the broken bodies of buddies torn by bullets and shrapnel, are addicted to nicotine. Smoking is responsible for causing or exacerbating an array of chronic and often fatal illnesses, including lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema. Simply put, this insidious addiction kills tens of thousands of veterans every year.

That the Department of Veterans Affairs has elected to conduct studies into potentially effective drug interventions to help veterans overcome their dependence on tobacco is important. It is laudable. What is not laudable, however, is the VA's violation of its own research protocols on the use of human subjects in medical research. This is not a new problem for the VA; it has become a bureaucratic nightmare over the past several years.
As credible media reports have made increasingly clear, alerts by VA researchers and officials to veterans involved in the smoking cessation studies of Chantix (varenicline) concerning severe psychotic side effects among some test subjects lagged, to put it mildly. VA officials have acknowledged that they knew of these severe side effects up to a year before they bothered to issue any public warning.

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