Obesity is now considered an epidemic here in the United States, with Colorado being the only state to have less than a 20% prevalence amongst its residents (as of the latest statistics available, 2008). Thirty-two states had a prevalence equal to or greater than 25%, with 6 of these states having a prevalence greater than 30% (Mississippi being the highest). Obesity is associated with increased health-care costs, reduced quality of life, and increased risk for premature death. Common diseases linked to obesity are coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. Along with a calorie-controlled diet and exercise regimens, the drug sibutramine (American brand name Meridia, European brand name Reductil) has often been prescribed as a helpful weight-loss tool. It works by regulating chemicals in the center of the brain involved in appetite control, leading to a temporary reduction in hunger and food cravings. This drug was prescribed to about a quarter of a million patients in the US last year.
However, as of January 21st of this year, the FDA has issued a warning that Meridia is too dangerous to be taken by patients who suffer from high blood pressure or heart problems, as it has been linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke in these groups.
The European Medicines Agency has actually gone so far as to ban the drug altogether; telling doctors and pharmacists not to prescribe or dispense the drug, and advising patients who are currently taking it to schedule an appointment with their physician to discuss the matter.
Anyone on the drug Meridia should therefore talk to their physician as soon as possible to make sure they are not among the patient groups involved in the warning, and to be able to make the appropriate adjustments if they are.