According to this article in the Washington Post, Abbott Laboratories, under pressure from the FDA, has withdrawn the diet drug Meridia from the market. This decision came in the wake of findings that the active ingredient in Meridia, sibutramine, increased the likelihood of heart attacks, strokes, and death in patients who were already at risk for cardiovascular disease. The FDA previously had approved sibutramine on the basis of studies that showed that subjects taking the drug, in conjunction with diet and exercise advice, lost an additional 5% of total starting body mass as compared to a control group that received diet and exercise advice alone.
So in plain English, let’s say that someone starts out weighing 350 pounds. That means using this drug will enable him to lose a whopping seventeen extra pounds. You think that's gonna make any difference? You think his life is gonna suck any less?
In fairness, I suppose I should point out that the drug already carried warning labels that it should not be used by people at risk for heart attack or stroke, but since so many obese people are at risk, and since the benefits of the drug were so meager, European regulators pulled the product last January, and now the United States and Canada are following suit.
The article goes on to say:
”It's been very frustrating," said Jennifer Lovejoy, incoming president of the Obesity Society, a research and advocacy group. "We desperately need safe new drugs so we can begin to have something effective against this public health epidemic."
What the article doesn’t say is how much of Ms. Lovejoy’s salary is paid by the makers of diet drugs, like, oh, say, sibutramine. “Research and advocacy group,” indeed.
The article also refers to the withdrawal as the “Latest Blow in Obesity Fight.” But why? We’re talking about a drug which is of almost no help in losing weight and kills people to boot. More like the latest blow to the profits of the drug companies.
But don’t worry about them. They’ll be back. Count on it. The article closes with these words of wisdom from Dr. Donna H. Ryan of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center:
”The solution to the problem is going to be multiple drugs that produce some weight loss, which would enable us to combine them together.”
Am I the only one out there who is horrified by this vision of ourselves as beings who have no need for self-control, self-discipline, or free will? Just pump us full of the right drugs and we'll do whatever our masters want.
Illustration via National Library of Medicine