Boffins conducting clinical trials of obesity pill Zimulti found that it increases suicidal thoughts in patients. Reviewers for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that though the 20-milligram dose of the drug, led to significant weight loss over one year when taken with a low-calorie diet, there was still cause for concern over depression and a high drop-out rate in clinical trials.
"(Zimulti) was shown to reduce body weight by approximately 5% relative to diet alone during trials of more than 6000 moderately overweight and obese subjects", the New Scientist quoted the FDA reviewers, as saying.
Known generically as rimonabant, the drug is already sold in 18 countries under the name Acomplia. "We remain concerned about rimonabant's adverse event profile, specifically adverse psychiatric reactions," an FDA staff summary said.
The trials showed that in people who took the drug were twice as likely to develop depression than those who received a placebo. However, the drug's manufacturer Sanofi-Aventis insisted that though more rimonabant patients reported suicidal thoughts, the drug's benefits "clearly outweigh the defined risks that are manageable in clinical practice".
Rimonabant works by blocking food craving signals in the brain. Sanofi, a French drug maker, developed the drug to target the brain receptors that trigger intense hunger after marijuana use.