News Thursday March 24, 2011

Reductil faces American scrutiny

The weight loss medication sibutramine – better known as Reductil, or Meridia for Americans – is about to be reviewed by US drug officials.

Some experts have predicted that tighter restrictions or even a ban may be imposed on the drug, while manufacturers Abbott argue that laws should not be changed, and that the drug is effective.

In the UK and Europe, Reductil has been banned since January, when concerns were raised about its effect on overweight and obese people with heart conditions.

These worries were based on early results from a lengthy US trial. The final data from this study was published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine. While the authors did not suggest a total US ban, experts who wrote an editorial for the respected publication did. Dr Gregory D. Curfman and his colleagues said there was no "credible rationale" for keeping the drug on the market, because of its limited efficiency and potential safety risk.

The Scout study results indicate that Reductil raises the risk of strokes and heart attacks in people who already have cardiovascular troubles. However, the results did not show an increase in death risk.

Philip Nalbone, a science analyst, told US paper the San Francisco Chronicle that tomorrow's review will mark "a decade of controversy" about the safety of sibutramine coming to a head. He said US authorities will keep the same restrictions as before, tighten laws up, or enforce a ban.

When it was available in the UK, Reductil was sold as an appetite suppressant. It worked by increasing chemicals associated with feeling full into the brain.

Reductil was marketed alongside the weight loss medication Xenical, which prevents fat from food from staying in the body. Unlike Reductil, Xenical is still widely deemed to be safe and effective among the medical community, and is not under scrutiny or review by medical authorities.

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