Another Diet Drug to Avoid: Meridia

A clinical study of the diet drug Meridia has shown an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, leading the New England Journal of Medicine to recommend it be taken off the market.

The study was funded by Abbot Laboratories, the drug’s manufacturer, and involved approximately 10,000 overweight or obese patients with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions. While the drug, also known as sibutramine, was found to be only moderately effective in promoting weight loss, it also increased the chance of a non-fatal cardiac event. Though the company already recommends that people with heart conditions do not take the drug, the New England Journal of Medicine went a step further, publishing an editorial recommending that it be removed from the market altogether. 

Early results from the study had already prompted the European Medicines Agency to order the drug be removed from the European market in January. At the time those same results led the Food and Drug Administration to mandate only warning labels restricting use by patients with heart conditions, but they will reconsider the matter on Sept. 15. It is unclear how the New England Journal of Medicine editorial – titled “Sibutramine – Another Flawed Diet Pill” – will influence their decision.

Those with heart conditions, or who suspect they may have one, should avoid the drug. And even those with healthy hearts may want to save their money – the same study found that patients lost an average of only nine pounds in the first year of taking Meridia, versus four pounds for patients on the placebo. 

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