Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fen-Phen Fear Is Weight Loss Worth the Health Risk?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fen-Phen Fear Is Weight Loss Worth the Health Risk?

Article excerpt

It's the little things that Kim Fraley appreciates now, things

that people who've never been fat could never understand.

It's not just being able to wear shorts in public. It's being

able to squat down to the bottom drawers of the file cabinet.

It's being able to bend her leg enough to work the parking brake

in her blue Chevy pickup. It's being able to fit through the

turnstile at Blockbuster.

Kim Fraley lost 69 pounds in 19 weeks. She did it with pills,

with fen-phen. Half a phentermine in the morning, a fenfluramine

before dinner and she simply doesn't eat as much as she used to.

"I can still go out to Chili's with my friends, and order a

grilled chicken sandwich," she said, "because I know I'll only

eat half. And I won't order french fries."

That combination of fenfluramine and phentermine made news last

month when a Mayo Clinic study found what could be a link to

fen-phen and serious heart problems. Though virtually all

medical experts called the study inconclusive, the U.S. Food and

Drug Administration has asked doctors to check their fen-phen

patients and report any heart valve abnormalities.

Like so often with medical reports, it's left people wondering.

Overweight people, already desperate to weigh less, have to

decide if weight loss is worth the health risk. The reaction has

been mixed.

George Young, a doctor who often prescribes fen-phen for his

weight-loss patients at Paxon Medical Center on Edgewood Avenue

in Jacksonville, said the number of interested callers dropped

dramatically when the study made the news.

But Audrey Lightsey, manager of Metabolic Research Center, said

only two patients asked to switch from among the 500 fen-phen

patients in the business's four clinics in Jacksonville.

For Fraley, there was never a question. She's sticking with

fen-phen.

At 6 feet tall, she was a high school athlete and didn't really

gain weight until she was about 18 and was sidelined by a knee

injury. She gained 65 pounds during a pregnancy two years later.

The scales have been climbing since then.

"I've been on Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, the

Mayo diet," she said. "I'd be cutting back and working out and

nothing worked. I'd lose 10 or 15 pounds and get discouraged. I

always gained it back."

But early this year, she decided enough was enough. She knew

she was getting too big, way too big. But she couldn't believe

what she saw when she finally got on the scales: past 200, past

250, past 300. Fraley was 25 years old and weighed 324 1/2

pounds.

She's almost down to 250 now and wants to lose another 90 or

100 pounds. But she's feeling good about herself. She wears

shorts and bathing suits. She smiles and laughs a lot. …

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