Magazine article USA TODAY

Drug Ban Threatens Obesity Control

Magazine article USA TODAY

Drug Ban Threatens Obesity Control

Article excerpt

The controversy concerning weight-reduction drugs seriously may injure or kill future efforts to develop and prescribe medications for obesity, warns Louis Lasagna, who heads Tufts University's Center for the Study of Drug Development, Boston, Mass. Two drugs, fenfluramine and dexfenfluramine were withdrawn from the market in September, 1997, at the urging of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after a study suggested that up to 30% of people taking these weight-loss drugs risk heart valve damage and that some of these are at risk for fatal complications.

"I think we need to take time right now to consider the implications of the understandable panic surrounding these decisions," Lasagna .says. He urges leaders in pharmacology, drug regulation, and medicine to organize a formal discussion on those implications.

"I'm concerned that all drug development work for obesity will stop now, and it will be the Bendectin story all over again." Bendectin was a drug that helped control pregnancy-related nausea which was marketed after another morning sickness drug, thalidomide, was withdrawn for causing birth defects.

"Nothing was ever found wrong with Bendectin, either by the FDA or any court, but there were so many lawsuits by people who thought there was something wrong with it that its manufacturer, the William S. Merrell Co., stopped selling it. I doubt there will ever again be a drug developed that is aimed specifically at pregnancy nausea. …

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