The FDA approved sibutramine for weight loss and weight maintenance treatment in the US in 1997 and other countries then followed suit. Sibutramine is a prescription medication and is marketed as Meridia in the US and Reductil outside the US.
However, following concerns over increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, sibutramine was withdrawn from the US market following an announcement by federal health officials on 8 October 2010. Around 100,000 people use sibutramine in the US.
The Sibutramine Cardiovascular Outcomes Trial (SCOUT) found a 16% increased risk of heart attack, stroke and death amongst those taking sibutramine compared to a placebo group.
In addition, SCOUT found very little difference in weight loss between people taking Meridia and a group taking a placebo.
Physicians have been advised to stop prescribing sibutramine immediately.
Sibutramine for Weight Loss – How Does it Work?
Sibutramine helps to control appetite and satiety.
Research has indicated that two of the chemicals produced by your brain, serotonin and norepinephrine, have key roles in stimulating hunger and fullness when eating. Serotonin is a ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter that promotes a feeling of calm. Norepinephrine is a stimulant.
Sibutramine works by blocking serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake and as it has an equal effect on both, the net effect is a reduced desire to eat and a feeling of fullness.
Sibutramine for Weight Loss – Does it Work?
Studies carried out by the manufacturers, Knoll Pharmaceuticals, and by independent researchers on the effectiveness of sibutramine for weight loss and weight management have demonstrated positive results.
Research indicates that sibutramine is moderately effective in aiding weight loss in obese test subjects, with 85% losing a minimum of 5% of body weight and 57% at least 10%.
There is also some evidence that sibutramine may increase the metabolic rate in animal studies, although human studies have been inconclusive. Obviously, if your metabolism is increased, you burn more calories, which will help weight loss.
As with other medications for chronic conditions like obesity, you’ll need to continue taking it to keep losing weight and maintain weight loss.
The Sibutramine Trial in Obesity Reduction and Maintenance (STORM) showed that people rapidly regained weight when the medication was withdrawn.
All 605 of the trial participants used sibutramine for six months. Some were then switched to a placebo. Of the patients that continued taking sibutramine, almost all of them kept the weight off, some regaining a small amount.
In fact, over a quarter kept all the weight they’d lost off for the whole of the two year trial.
The participants that were given the placebo regained most of the weight they’d lost.
So, it works, the downside is that you’ll have to keep taking it to experience and maintain the weight loss sibutramine engenders.
Sibutramine costs around $90-$120 for a months supply depending on the dosage required. Prices do vary but it’s not cheap if you’re going to take it forever!
As sibutramine was only licensed in the US in 1997, studies into the health implications of long term use are inconclusive, although it can increase blood pressure and heart rate so a history of heart disease is likely to be a contraindication.
Other reported side effects include headaches, constipation, insomnia and a dry mouth.
Sibutramine can be taken with Xenical (Orlistat), which is a fat blocker, subject to the advice of your doctor, although studies have indicated no additional weight loss from taking them together.
As with all prescription medications, check with your doctor before taking it.
The Bottom Line…
You guessed it, there is no magic pill for long term weight loss. A consistent and concerted regime of diet and exercise will give you the best results. A weight loss drug taken as well may provide some additional help.
However, following the 8 October 2010 announcement and the increased cardiovascular risk found by SCOUT, you may want to think carefully before choosing sibutramine. Consult your doctor first.