Spiked Chinese Herbal Pills: Is Weight Loss Worth Having A Heart Attack?

We have learned the lesson repeatedly, with drugs like Fen-Phen, Ephedra (see our litigation here), and similar magic pills, that there is no free lunch when it comes to weight loss. If drugs are being used to amp up the engine of the body’s metabolism, something is eventually going to seize up. Yet, the pharmaceutical industry and the unregulated diet supplement industry keep trying.

Here’s a case report concerning their latest victim, reported in the September 11, 2008, issue of Clinical Toxicology. A 37-year-old woman suffered a heart attack after using an herbal weight loss product for just 3 days. A urine screen, however, disclosed the presence of sibutramine. (The article doesn’t disclose this fact, but one would assume that the herbal product was spiked with sibutramine, and the drug was not listed on the label as an ingredient.) Sibutramine is a serotonin-norephinephrine reuptake inhibitor that is structurally related to amphetamine, although its mechanism of action is distinct. Sibutramine is the active incredient in Abbott Labs’ Meridia, a prescription weight loss product. The patient was not obese, did not smoke, and was not known to have hypertension or diabetes. No other stimulants were found in her blood stream. The author reports a similar case involving a young woman in their clinic who had also suffered myocardial infarction after using sibutramine for 30 days.

There have been 397 adverse events reported to the FDA concerning sibutramine between 1998 and 2001. There were 152 hospitalizations. Of the 29 patients who died, 19 suffered cardiac problems that led to their deaths. Sibutramine is one of drugs Dr. David Graham, the FDA whistleblower, and Public Citizen, have warned the public about.

Sources:

Clinical Toxicology, Sept. 11, 2008

Dr. David Graham

Public Citizen’s Petition to the FDA to ban sibutramine (Meridia)