Meridia: A New Obesity Drug

What is it?
Meridia is the latest drug on the market for obesity. The generic name for Meridia is Sibutramine. Meridia is a major departure from the long history of weight loss drugs. Previously, the drugs used were stimulants-everything from caffeine (over-the-counter weight loss pills) to Fen-Phen and Redux to cocaine. Serious side effects, especially with the street and over the counter drugs, abounded.

How it Works
Meridia works by suppressing the appetite in a person through preventing the degradation of norepinephrine and serotonin, two brain chemicals. This is very similar to what the drug Prozac and other anti-depressants do. These brain chemicals are believed to be responsible for the sense of being satisfied with how much one has eaten.

Still, Meridia, like its predecessors, is intended for obesity, not simple weight loss. For most women, this means being at least 30 pounds overweight. Women with other risk factors such as high blood pressure or diabetes can take Meridia if they are a bit less obese. This is because extra weight causes more health problems for those with high blood pressure or diabetes.

The Results
Of course, a lower calorie diet must be followed. Unfortunately, the final results are far from dramatic. During a one-year study, an average loss of 10 pounds was associated with 10-mg doses of Meridia. A person using 15-mg per day lost an average of 14 pounds in the same time. The people with only a lower calorie diet were not far behind with a weight loss average of 3.5 pounds. So the bottom line is that there is about a 10 pound extra weight loss in people. Given the criteria for taking the drug, this would mean the patients were still significantly overweight. Don't be dazzled by studies that show a bigger difference initially. It is the final weight loss that matters.

Some common side effects include dry mouth, headaches, constipation, and insomnia. No major life or health threatening side effects have come to light, so far. Meridia is not associated with pulmonary hypertension, which was a relatively rare but potentially fatal side effect of "Fen-Phen."

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