Health authorities recall weight-loss drug Meridia

The China Post news staff

Health authorities in Taiwan have ordered a recall of Meridia and all other weight-loss drugs that contain sibutramine because of increased risks of cardiovascular problems.

Pharmaceutical firms selling Meridia and other sibutramine-containing weight-loss drugs have to remove their products from store shelves within a month, the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday. The DOH move comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week demanded Abbott Laboratories withdraw its Meridia capsules from the U.S. market. The DOH noted that the European Union in January already suggested its members suspend sales of Meridia. Australia also removed Meridia from its market on Saturday, the DOH said. The DOH revealed that Taiwan has issued 15 licenses for weight-loss drugs that contain sibutramine, including Meridia, which is probably the best known in the market.

Other sibutramine-based drugs that have been allowed on the Taiwan market include Reductil, Sytramee, Losfat, Moi-Allison, Sibutil, Shapedesign and Controkilo, according to the Central News Agency. According to the drug law, all those 15 licenses will become invalid starting Oct. 11. All pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies and medical institutions are banned from importing, manufacturing, distributing, displaying, dispensing or selling such drugs starting Oct. 11, the DOH said.

Violators could be fined NT$20,000 to NT$100,000, the DOH warned. The DOH also reminded current users of these drugs to seek advice and alternatives from their doctors. The CNA cited statistics from Taiwan’s health authorities as indicating that 302 people experienced discomfort after taking medications containing sibutramine. Of the cases, 115 were proven related to cardiovascular disease, but no death was reported.

Meridia is used in combination with a reduced calorie diet and exercise to help people lose weight and maintain their weight loss, the CNA said.

It is in a class of medications called appetite suppressants which act on appetite control centers in the brain to decrease appetite, the CNA added. Abbott Laboratories agreed to withdraw Meridia after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration unveiled results of a study that showed a 16 percent increased risk for heart attack, stroke and death among people taking the drug, reports said.