Meridia Recalled Over Heart Risks

Meridia manufacturer Abbott Laboratories has agreed to stop marketing the popular weight loss drug in the U.S., after a study raised serious concerns over a link between Meridia use and heart problems.

The announcement of the Meridia recall came on October 8, 2010. The main impetus for Abbott’s action (with a strong nudge from the FDA) was a recently concluded study that showed an increased risk of heart attack and stroke in patients that were taking Meridia, and minimal weight loss benefits in light of those health risks. The 60-month study (called the Sibutramine Cardiovascular Outcomes, or “SCOUT” trial) followed 10,000 men and women who were given Meridia or a placebo. Development of cardiovascular problems was closely monitored in these patients, while progress in their weight loss was also tracked.

According to the FDA, results of the study showed a 16 percent increase in the risk of serious (sometimes even fatal) heart events like heart attacks and strokes in patients who were given Meridia, compared with patients who took the placebo. At the same time, there was only a slight difference in weight loss progress when the Meridia group and the placebo group were compared.

A day after the Meridia recall announcement, this Washington Post article labeled the weight loss pill’s withdrawal “the latest setback in the long, frustrating quest for a pharmaceutical solution to the nation’s obesity epidemic.”

Meridia (sibutramine) was approved by the FDA in 1997, as a prescription weight loss medication intended for use by patients who were considered obese under the body mass index (BMI) measurement standard.

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