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: Deaths from narcotic painkillers quadrupled in past decade, CDC reports

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Peacock's train is not such a drag

23 minutes ago

The magnificent plumage of the peacock may not be quite the sacrifice to love that it appears to be, University of Leeds researchers have discovered.

Space: The final frontier... open to the public

45 minutes ago

Historically, spaceflight has been reserved for the very healthy. Astronauts are selected for their ability to meet the highest physical and psychological standards to prepare them for any unknown challenges. However, with ...

NASA releases IRIS footage of X-class flare (w/ Video)

45 minutes ago

On Sept. 10, 2014, NASA's newest solar observatory, the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, mission joined other telescopes to witness an X-class flare – an example of one of the strongest solar flares—on ...

NASA sees Odile soaking Mexico and southwestern US

49 minutes ago

Tropical Storm Odile continues to spread moisture and generate strong thunderstorms with heavy rainfall over northern Mexico's mainland and the Baja California as well as the southwestern U.S. NASA's Tropical ...

Recommended for you

US experts skeptical of testosterone drug benefits

17 minutes ago

U.S. health experts say there is little evidence that testosterone-boosting drugs are effective for treating common signs of aging and large studies are needed to support their continued use in millions of American men.

Big cities take aim at prescription painkillers

Sep 16, 2014

Some of the nation's largest cities are ratcheting up their criticism of prescription painkillers, blaming the industry for a wave of addiction and overdoses that have ravaged their communities and busted local budgets.

World Health Organization policy improves use of medicines

Sep 16, 2014

In this issue of PLOS Medicine, Kathleen Holloway from WHO and David Henry (University of Toronto, Canada) evaluated data on reported adherence to WHO essential medicines practices and measures of quality use of medicines from 5 ...

User comments : 0