Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is there such a thing as a safe diet drug?

From the Globe and Mail:
A few years after it hit the market, the diet drug Meridia was being investigated by health authorities globally for links to more than two dozen deaths and hundreds of adverse reactions. But those authorities, including Health Canada, concluded that Meridia, the brand name of the drug sibutramine, was safe enough to remain on the market and be prescribed to treat obesity.

Seven years later, Abbott Laboratories, the company that sells Meridia, has voluntarily pulled it off the market in Canada and the U.S. after a major study published last month, funded by the company, found that it raises a patient’s risk of stroke, heart attack and cardiovascular death.

Two generic versions, called Apo-sibutramine and Nova-sibutramine, have also been pulled off Canadian shelves.

The study, which last more than three years, also found that patients lost, on average, less than 10 pounds on sibutramine, which acts on the serotonin system to make an individual feel full.

Abbott Laboratories stands by Meridia, maintaining that the benefits outweigh the risks as long as the appetite suppressant is given to people without pre-existing cardiovascular disease and patients are monitored closely for increased blood pressure or pulse rate.

However, some medical experts and advocates see Meridia as an example of deep-rooted problems in the drug-safety system that urgently need to be fixed. There is concern that such health issues could arise again, as other companies look to create new appetite-suppressing prescription drugs. ...more

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