One of the more recent offerings in the pernicious practice of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising from Big Pharma is a tortoise and a hare hawking a smoking cessation med: Chantix. The drug, varenicline tartrate, has a dual action in that it acts as both a partial agonist (enhancing activity but not by too much) and antagonist (blocker) of the alpha2beta4 nicotinic acid acetylcholine receptors. These are ligand-gated ion channel receptors, a major class of receptors in the CNS which comprises the targets for many drugs. Here’s an illustration of a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, ripped off from the Wikipedia entry.
Also, take a look at Corpus Callosum’s (pre-Science Blogs) article on Chantix.
As with any med, Chantix has side effects: some adverse, some not-sot-adverse, and some, well, kind of provocative. The superlative John Mack of the Pharma Marketing Blog(1) discusses his investigation of one of the odd side effects of varenicline tartrate in Chantix Californication Dreamin': Viagra II. Because Chantix acts as a partial agonist (see Big Papa Pfizer’s notes on Chantix’s mechanism of action), the upregulation of dopamine results in – how should we say – pleasurable dreams. The intrepid Mr. Mack went so far as to investigate what consumers were saying about Chantix on Health Boards.
From his perhaps not comprehensive study (but entertaining all the same). Mr Mack reports
that a good portion of dreams involve Hollywood movie stars like George Clooney. And there’s a decidedly sexual overtone to these dreams.
An example from a Chantix consumer:
“Wow, this is just too funny. I’ve been dreaming of George Clooney!! Before Chantix, I don’t believe that I’ve every dreamed of him, but for the past week he visits me every night (;”
And my favorite:
“I keep dreaming of Orlando Bloom. Orlando and Johnny Depp keep fighting over me. Sometimes in their pirate outfits, sometimes not. Then I had a dream that I was riding on a motcycle w/ john travolta, (i watched wild hogs that day) and Tom Cruise was the dog sitter and of coarse he was wearing his pink leather collar. Weird! Anyway, I guess the saying ‘a girl can always dream’ takes on a whole new meaning now.”
Mr. Mack wonders if Pfizer might be chokin’ another Viagra chicken here, i.e., the phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitor, originally indicated for cardiovascular disease, whose notable side effect resulted in the famous blue pill.
Hmmm, maybe it has potential but the prospect of a dream with the bilious John Travolta on a throbbing “hog” and Tom Cruise wearing a pink leather color is downright scary. Is there some…Scientology connection here? I think I’ll wait until I can get that droud implant.
(1) Pharma Marketing is recommended and gets 4 pant-hoots on a five point scale. Why not five, you ask? Well, it does come from the unholy realm of marketing.