Three days ago, the french Food Safety Agency, AFSSAP, (equivalent to the America FDA or The Food Standards Agency in the UK), has asked French doctors to stop prescribing the anti-obesity drug, Sibutramine, marketed as Sibutral in France or Meridia in America. This french order comes after recommendation from the European Union’s equivalent of the FDA to pull this drug off the market because the benefits from this medicine outweigh the increased health risks. Those taking this weight loss drug have elevated risk for heart attack and stroke and a higher risk of patient death. These health risks have often been even more remarked in patients with underlying heart problems and hypertension (high blood pressure). One woman in France has died due to the direct result of Sibutral and an American watch group called Public Citizen has said that 84 deaths have been attributed to this anti-obesity drug.
Lack of Other Anti-Obesity Medications on the Market
Unfortunately, there a not many other anti-obesity medicines available for those who are obese (over 30% of their ideal body weight). The other major drug is Xenical (Orlistat), which works by blocking fat absorption in the intestines. Xenical directly affects the intestines and doesn’t enter the bloodstream or pass the blood/brain barrier. This makes this drug safer for those with high pressure or cardiovascular disease.
If you are taking Sibutral in France, authorities suggest not to panic and see your doctor for advice on other weight loss solutions. If you are taking this medicine in America or another country that is still prescribing it, be aware of the increased health risks. The FDA has ordered that the medicine boxes now be labeled with these increased risks…so..be proactive! This is again another example to know your personal health profile and know your family health history. If you have high blood pressure, a strong family history of stroke or heart disease or have a higher risk for a heart attack and will continue to take this drug, see your doctor for regular monitoring. If you have your own blood pressure machine at home take your pressure and monitor it weekly. If you are hypertensive (defined as a measurement greater than 140/90 Hg), talk to your doctor. And if you do have a strong family history of stroke or heart attack make sure your doctor is aware of this also. This medicine looks like it will no longer be available in Europe for much longer… and in America? Time will tell.