NEW YORK (CBS 2) — A popular diet drug may be more dangerous than it is helpful, and the government is weighing in on what consumers should do.
The popular weight loss drug Meridia had global sales of more than $300 million just two years ago, but now it could be banned in the United States, reports CBS 2’s Dr. Holly Phillips.
An FDA committee is considering pulling Meridia as studies show it can increase the risk of heart attacks for some.
“I suspect that if they don’t remove the drug entirely, they will probably put significant limitations or warnings on the use of the drug,” Dr. John C. Teeters, of University of Rochester Medical Center, said.
A study out earlier this year found that, in overweight people who have cardiovascular problems like diabetes or heart disease, Meridia raised their risk of heart attack or stroke by 16 percent.
Meridia is already banned in Europe, and earlier this year the drug’s maker advised doctors not to prescribe the pills to patients with cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Louis Aronne is a weight loss expert who has advised Meridia’s manufacturer, Abbott Laboratories.
“Meridia plays a small but significant role – we use Meridia when other types of treatments don’t work,” Dr. Aronne, of New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, said.
Many experts, though, believe Meridia comes with too much risk. This month, editors of the New England Journal of Medicine wrote, “it is difficult to discern a credible rationale for keeping this medication on the market.”
“I think that most physicians would probably agree that a five- or eight-pound weight loss isn’t worth any risk, much less significant risk, of cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Teeters said.
The advisory committee could recommend Meridia be pulled off the market, or leave it and have stronger warnings added to the label. The FDA will take the panel’s recommendation into consideration when it makes a final decision in the coming weeks.