“Meridia’s continued availability is not justified when you compare the very modest weight loss that people achieve on this drug to their risk of heart attack or stroke,” said John Jenkins, M.D., director of the Office of New Drugs in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). “Physicians are advised to stop prescribing Meridia to their patients and patients should stop taking this medication. Patients should talk to their health care provider about alternative weight loss and weight loss maintenance programs.”
Meridia was approved by the FDA in November 1997 for weight loss and maintenance of weight loss in obese people, as well as in certain overweight people with other risks for heart disease. The approval was based on clinical data showing that more people receiving sibutramine lost at least 5 percent of their body weight than people on placebo who relied on diet and exercise alone.
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.
The FDA requested the market withdrawal after reviewing data from the Sibutramine Cardiovascular Outcomes Trial (SCOUT). SCOUT was initiated as part of a postmarket requirement to look at cardiovascular safety of sibutramine after the European approval of this drug. The trial demonstrated a 16 percent increase in the risk of serious heart events, including non-fatal heart attack, non-fatal stroke, the need to be resuscitated once the heart stopped, and death, in a group of patients given sibutramine compared to another given placebo. There was a small difference in weight loss between the placebo group and the group that received sibutramine.