Study reveals continued damage from banned obesity drug

Nov 06, 2008

Fenfluramine, the appetite suppressant drug banned in the US in 1997 due to fears over its links to heart conditions, has been shown to have serious long-term effects. In a report published today in the open access journal BMC Medicine, researchers have shown that people who stopped using fenfluramine eleven years ago had damaged heart valves up to seven years later.

Fenfluramine (and the closely related dexfenfluramine) were widely prescribed as half of a so-called 'fen/phen' drug combination used to combat obesity. Since its withdrawal, there have been reports that tens of thousands of lawsuits have been filed against the drug's manufacturers over damage caused. In this study, Charles Dahl from the Central Utah Clinic led a team of researchers who studied the heart condition of 5743 former fenfluramine users. He said, "Valve problems were common in individuals exposed to fenfluramines, more frequent in females and associated with duration of drug use in all valves assessed".

Heart valves, such as the aortic, mitral and tricuspid valves, ensure that blood flows in the correct direction around the heart. When they fail, blood back-flows (termed regurgitation). If the regurgitation is severe enough, congestive heart failure and/or the need for heart valve surgery may occur. Dahl said, "We found clear evidence for a strong, graded association between duration of exposure to fenfluramines and prevalence of aortic regurgitation and for mild or greater mitral and tricuspid regurgitation".

This is the largest study to examine duration of exposure to the drug and the first to estimate the incidence of valvular surgery among prior users. The authors found that 0.44% of former fenfluramine users in this group had valve surgery as a result of the use of fenfluramines. This risk for valve surgery was increased approximately seven fold. They write, "This is probably a conservative estimate, as another study has shown that there exists a 17- to 34-fold excess of clinically apparent (presumably severe), valvular disease in persons who had used fenfluramines for four months or longer".

Citation: Valvular Regurgitation and Surgery Associated with Fenfluramine Use: An Analysis of 5743 Individuals Charles F Dahl, Marvin R Allen, Paul M Urie and Paul N Hopkins, BMC Medicine (in press)
www.biomedcentral.com/bmcmed/

Source: BioMed Central

Explore further: Italy bans Novartis flu vaccine after suspicious deaths

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New aortic valve without open heart surgery

Dec 06, 2010

Siemens Healthcare developed a new, smart visualization and guidance technology, which facilitates implantation of an aortic replacement valve by means of a catheter. The technology spares patients the trauma ...

'Cow valve' heart implant hailed as breakthrough

Apr 03, 2011

A new type of heart valve made with cow tissue and inserted by catheter was hailed on Sunday as a major breakthrough that could eliminate the need for open heart surgery in some patients, US doctors said Sunday.

Procedure replaces heart valve, avoids open-heart surgery

Mar 11, 2011

Veronica Smith, 26, is the first person in Arizona to receive a new pulmonary valve without having open-heart surgery. The procedure was performed in the University Medical Center Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory.

Recommended for you

Have a cold? Don't ask your doctor for antibiotics

Nov 26, 2014

Antibiotic resistance is a major threat to public health. Resistance makes it harder for physicians to treat infections and can increase the chance patients will die from an infection. What is more, the treatment ...

Powdered measles vaccine found safe in early clinical trials

Nov 25, 2014

A measles vaccine made of fine dry powder and delivered with a puff of air triggered no adverse side effects in early human testing and it is likely effective, according to a paper to be published November 28 in the journal ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.