Obesity drug withdrawn over health concerns

As one of the most popular anti-obesity drugs is withdrawn over health fears, we question the value of diet pills

There aren’t many women who would turn down the chance to lose a few unwanted pounds. But would you take a pill to do it? If recent news is anything to go by, the answer should perhaps be ‘no’.

Reports that one of the most popular anti-obesity pills has been withdrawn from shelves over fears it triggers heart attacks and strokes has raised questions over the future of diet pills.

A trial of the appetite suppressant, marketed as Reductil, suggested it increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes among patients, outweighing its benefits regarding weight loss. 

Furthermore, the trial of 10,000 patients carried out for six years showed they only achieved moderate weight loss when compared to those on placebo.

Following the tests, the pill should no longer be prescribed by doctors or dispensed by pharmacists, according to the European Medicines Agency.

Reductil is not the only obesity drug that has caused concern. A year ago, Rimonabant – once the big hope of obesity drugs – was taken off the market because it was linked to serious psychiatric problems, including anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

This means the only licensed obesity drugs available in Britain are Xenical and the weaker, over-the-counter version Alli.

Dr Khalida Ismali, a consultant liaison psychiatrist at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, said: ‘Any drugs that act to control appetite should have more stringent and long-term testing to ensure that other brain functions are not altered.

‘What the two recent drug withdrawals are telling us is that it is difficult to target just appetite without affecting other systems that regulate emotions and cardiovascular system. The requirements for testing them need to be strengthened.’

A spokesperson for Sanofi-Aventis, the makers of Rimonabant, said: ‘[The company] does not comment on this type of legal argument.’

Have you been affected by diet drugs or know someone who has? If so, Marie Claire wants to hear from you. Post your comments below to join the debate…

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