Meridia, also known as sibutramine, was released in the 1990s, as a weight loss medication. Since the beginning, we have known that it often increases blood pressure and pulse that is persistent despite further weight loss.
As a bariatrician, a physician trained in the medical treatment of overweight and obesity, I have seen the effects both good and bad of Meridia. Just last week Meridia hit the news again as data from the Scout trial came to light. To summarize, Meridia was used in patients with a history of heart disease and diabetes or both. These are already high risk patients. The treated patients had an 11.4% risk of dying of heart attack, stroke or other heart related problem while those not on the drug the risk was 10%. Therefore the use of Meridia increased the risk of dying from a cardiovascular cause by an increase of 1.4%.
The F.D. A. will wait until the data is finalized, sometime this March, before looking at the issue again. Till then the recommendation is to avoid Sibutramine use in people with heart disease, stroke and uncontrolled blood pressure.
It is important to remember that medications for weight loss are a tool and usually a very effective tool to assist in the weight loss process. They are not a cure and need to be used in addition to diet, exercise and long term behavior change.