Diet & Weight Loss: Would You Risk Heart Attack or Stroke To Take A Diet Pill?

BlogHer Original Post

It's no secret that I'm not fond of diet pills, and I've written quite a bit about my disdain for "Alli: The Diarrhea Diet" over the last few years. And it is now being reported that the prescription diet pill "Meridia" increases a person's risk of heart attack and stroke. Didn't we learn anything from the whole "Fen-Phen" debacle?

When it comes to taking any medication, the first thing you have to do is determine if the benefits outweigh the risks of taking it.  So let's take a look at the benefits.  It seems that Meridia offers less than a nine pound reduction in weight.  But is this really a benefit? This is a drug that is prescribed by physicians to "obese" patients (people that need to lose a lot of weight before they will see any health benefits), so a nine pound reduction in weight hardly seems to be worth the risk.

From WebMD - Weight Loss Pill Meridia Ups Heart Attack and Stroke:

The editors of the New England Journal of Medicine disagree. In a strongly worded editorial, they call Meridia "another flawed diet pill." They note that in return for offering a weight loss of under 9 pounds -- less than 5% of the body weight of the overweight participants in the study -- the drug had a one-in-70 chance of causing a heart attack or stroke.

People with underlying heart problems had an even higher one-in-52 risk of heart attack or stroke. And the New England Journal of Medicine editors note that many people who are overweight or obese have undiagnosed heart problems.

With such a small benefit, why would anyone risk having a heart attack or stoke by taking this drug?  I wonder what physicians are telling their patients when they prescribe this drug?  Are they explaining to their patients that this medication will be putting their health in serious danger for very mediocre results?

This drug has already been banned in Europe, and the FDA is expected to make recommendations regarding Meridia later this month.  The unfortunate thing is there will always be another dangerous weight loss drug ready to take over when one goes off the market.

Here is a video discussing the pros and cons of Meridia...

Is it just the diet drugs that people are willing to risk their lives to take? 

What would you do if your doctor offered to give you medication that would reduce the symptoms of a cold or virus, but at the same time greatly increase your risk of developing pneumonia?  Would you take medication for a headache that greatly increased your risk for a stroke?  It seems the logical answer to these questions would be NO.  So it makes me wonder if patients taking Meridia are getting the facts but still choosing to risk their life for weight loss.  Or even worse, just not being told the facts.

I also think that in addition to understanding the risks of these diet drugs, we need to take a closer look at why so many people are willing to risk their lives to be thin?  What's going on?  We really need to stop the "dying to be thin" mentality in this country, and start focusing on being healthy.

What do you think about this latest diet pill controversy?  Do you think the nine pounds lost using Meridia is worth the increase risk of heart attack and stroke?  Would you be willing to put your life at risk by using pills to lose weight?  Do you think the FDA should take Meridia off the market?  Let us know your thoughts in comments.

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
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