Benefits Of New Diet Drug Don't Outweigh Risks

Levitsky concluded that Redux not only produces a relative small weight loss but also may carry health risks.

"Although conclusive evidence of possible health risks from chronically taking fenfluramine or any other weight loss medication is not in, there is some evidence of brain damage in animals and pulmonary hypertension in animals and humans," he said.

In fact, in one case-controlled 1996 study of 95 patients, patients suffering from pulmonary hypertension were 23 times more likely to have taken d-fenfluramine than their matched controls and that the longer they had been taking the medication, the greater their risk of developing this serious condition. In an article published in the same issue of the journal, it is reported that Redux also is associated with sleep problems, drowsiness, headaches, dizziness, vertigo, nervousness, anxiety, depression and abnormal dreams and that discontinuing the drug is related to depression, delusion, hypertension and nausea.

Nevertheless, some researchers argue that even though d-fenfluramine has an increased health risk associated with it, the risks associated with obesity are far greater. They argue that these risks can be reduced by weight loss, perhaps achieved by taking appetite suppressing drugs. Levitsky disagrees: "There is no evidence that losing weight with the help of appetite suppressants is as effective at reducing mortality as losing weight through more conventional techniques such as reducing dietary fat and increasing exercise."

He emphasized that the burden of proof rests with the advocates of the weight-reducing medications to show that the benefits of the weight loss from the medications is equivalent to that of improving diets in reducing mortality.

"We know that d-fenfluramine is not a completely safe drug, and we know that simple lifestyle changes such as modest exercise or changing the kinds of food we eat from having an average of 34 percent of total calories from fat to an average

Contact: Susan Lang
Cornell University News Service

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