WASHINGTON (AP) — Abbott Laboratories said Friday it will withdraw its diet pill Meridia in the U.S. and Canada, after coming under pressure from health regulators who say the drug increases the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients with a history of heart disease.

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Companies have struggled for decades to develop drugs that help people lose weight without dangerous side effects. The withdrawal of Meridia leaves just one prescription drugs on the market for long-term weight loss — Roche’s Xenical, which is not widely used. Several other generic drugs are approved for short-term weight loss, including phentermine.

Food and Drug Administration scientists said they requested the withdrawal because Meridia’s risks were not outweighed by “the very modest weight loss that people achieve on this drug.” On average, patients lost five pounds with the drug.

“Physicians are advised to stop prescribing Meridia to their patients and patients should stop taking this medication,” Dr. John Jenkins, the FDA’s director for new drugs, said in a statement.

Meridia is not widely used in the U.S., with a steep decline in prescriptions in recent years. About 100,000 patients use the drug in the U.S., according to the FDA. Eighty percent of users are middle-aged women.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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