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Hasta La Vista, Meridia: Another Diet Drug Bites the Dust

November 18, 2010 |

Abbott’s removal of Meridia from the U.S. market — at the FDA’s request — means there’s just one weight-loss therapy approved for long-term use in a country where 68% of the population is overweight or obese.

(As the WSJ reports, Abbott also pulled the drug in Canada and Australia today. Regulators removed Meridia from the European market back in January.)

The FDA said Meridia carries unacceptably high heart risks, considering what it calls the “very modest weight loss” seen in those taking the drug, which was approved in 1997. A study published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine found a higher risk of heart attack and stroke among patients with existing cardiovascular conditions.

Abbott said in a statement that it still believes the benefits of the drug outweigh the risks when prescribed appropriately. The Meridia label had already been changed to say that people with heart drugs shouldn’t take the drug.

Abbott says patients currently taking the drug should stop.

Orlistat (sold as Xenical in prescription form and as Alli over the counter) is now the only prescription weight-loss drug approved for long-term use. Three experimental drugs are up for FDA consideration, but so far the advisory committee charged with reviewing research and issuing a recommendation to the agency has been skeptical. It voted against the approval of Arena’s lorcaserin last month, and in July rejected Vivus’s Qnexa. Another drug, Orexigen’s Contrave, will be scrutinized by the panel later this year.

Source:  by Katherine Hobson at

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