Weight Loss Pill Meridia Raises Heart Attack, Stroke Risks

WebMD Health News

People who take Abbott's weight loss pill Meridia have a higher risk of nonfatal heart attack and stroke, a company-sponsored study shows.

The increased risk was seen only in patients with underlying heart disease. When the FDA learned of the study results last January, Meridia use was restricted to patients without known heart problems.

The European regulatory authorities went further. They banned the drug, known generically as sibutramine and in Europe as Reductil.

Later this month, an FDA expert advisory panel will meet to decide whether Meridia should remain on sale in the U.S.

The researchers reporting the study, W. Philip T. James, MD, DSc, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and colleagues, including researchers from Abbott, say the drug should stay on the market as long as it isn't sold to people with heart conditions.

The editors of the New England Journal of Medicine disagree. In a strongly worded editorial, they call Meridia "another flawed diet pill." They note that in return for offering a weight loss of under 9 pounds -- less than 5% of the body weight of the overweight participants in the study -- the drug had a one-in-70 chance of causing a heart attack or stroke.

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