Can Diet Pills lead to Heart Problems?

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It goes without saying that a tremendous societal pressure to stay thin exists. A study shows that 59 percent of Americans are trying to lose weight one way or another; one of the most popular methods is through diet pills. One in seven Americans have used diet pills at some point in their lives, and for preteen girls to young women of age 20, that statistic rises to one in five.

The Dangers of Meridia

Only two types of prescription diet pills that have been approved by the FDA: Orlistat (otherwise known as Xenical or Alli) and Meridia. Both have their own set of side effects, as is expected from most prescription medication, and though Orlistat’s side effects (oily stools, gas, and frequent bowel movements) may seem like an inconvenience, arecent study from the New England Journal of Medicine has shown that Meridia usage could lead to heart attacks or a stroke, possibly causing fatality as a result.

Through a controlled experiment lasting three-and-a-half years, about 10,700 overweight or obese people aged 55 or over were treated with the drug. The test subjects were noted to have a pre-existing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes or both. Of the people taking Meridia, an estimated 11.4 percent suffered a stroke, heart attack, or died from a heart-related cause. This was 16 percent higher than those who had taken the placebo. It was noted, though, that Meridia did not increase the risk for heart problems for the people who did not have a history of heart disease.

How Meridia leads to heart problems

Meridia functions as an appetite suppressant by acting on neurotransmitters in the brain increasing the amount of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. This causes an increase of the neurotransmitters, leading to a decrease in appetite. However, this also results in a thickening of the blood vessels, causing higher blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.

What is Being Done

Since January, The Food and Drug Administration required an increased label warning of Meridia’s potential danger. As of this writing, the FDA is currently investigating on whether Meridia should stay in the market and have easy access to the American public. The FDA will make their announcement on September 15.

Resources:

  • http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/09/01/health.weight.loss.drugs/index.html?iref=allsearch
  • http://abcnews.go.com/Health/WellnessResource/story?id=4218354
  • http://www.healthreserve.com/diet_pills/prescription_diet_pills.htm
  • http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20100901/weight-loss-pill-meridia-ups-heart-attack-stroke
  • http://www.wwaytv3.com/node/725
  • http://www.annecollins.com/eating-disorders/statistics.htm