A consumer group has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to ban the prescription diet drug sibutramine. Public Citizen says the drug, sold as Meridia, is associated with 29 deaths, including 19 from cardiovascular causes such as heart attacks. But obesity experts say it's difficult to determine if people died because of Meridia or because they were obese, which put them at increased risk for many diseases and premature death.
This is not the first time a diet drug has come under fire. In 1998, the FDA pulled two diet drugs from the market, fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine, because of concern over heart-valve problems. Sibutramine, marketed as Meridia by Abbott Laboratories, works on two brain chemicals that control appetite and make patients feel full. It was approved in 1997 for people who are obese.
Average weight loss from using the medication is 5% to 9% in four to six months. At the time of its approval, experts warned that the drug was not meant for people with heart disease. Studies showed that the drug slightly increased the blood pressure of some patients and substantially increased it in others.