Monday, January 04, 2010

Heart attack and stroke fears over fat-busting "wonder pill"

A fat-busting pill used by thousands in the UK is being investigated by medicines watchdogs over fears it could cause heart attacks and strokes. The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which licenses the use of the drug Reductil, is looking at the results of a clinical trial which suggests that its active ingredient, sibutramine, could lead to an increased risk of developing heart problems. Nearly 330,000 prescriptions for the drug, which tricks the brain into believing the stomach is full, were written out in 2008.

The safety data has come from an international trial of 10,000 patients carried out during the past six years. Most of those recruited for the Sibutramine Cardiovascular Outcome Trial (SCOUT) were overweight or obese and already had cardiovascular problems. A heart condition would normally exclude them from taking the drug because it can slightly raise blood pressure. However, the EMA has said that, as a result of the ‘seriousness’ of the study’s concerns, it is looking at the implications for all patients offered the prescription-only drug and will release its findings later this month. Until then, it has advised doctors to use Reductil ‘with caution’ and to monitor patients’ blood pressure and heart rate.

The UK’s medicines watchdog, The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, also confirmed it was reviewing the data. The agency has recorded 2,094 suspected adverse reactions to Reductil since it was introduced in 2001, and 17 deaths have been linked to the drug. Six of the deaths were caused by heart problems and strokes.

Reductil works by blocking the nerve cells that release and reabsorb the hormone serotonin, a chemical neurotransmitter in the brain that affects moods and appetite. As the level of serotonin in the body rises, people feel fuller, eat less and, as a result, lose weight.

The drug is recommended for patients who are clinically ‘obese’ – those with a Body Mass Index over 30 – or for anyone with a BMI higher than 27 who has another weight-related health problem.

A spokesman for Abbott Laboratories, which manufacturers Reductil, said: ‘Our ongoing evaluation of the SCOUT study data does not change our medical assessment of sibutramine’s risk/benefit profile when used appropriately in the approved patient population. 'Sibutramine is an important treatment for patients who are obese.’


The alcohol merrygoround again

Champagne Is Good for Your Heart, Study Suggests -- But Only in Moderation, natch. I would have thought that the effects described could be due to alcohol alone -- as alcohol is a vasodilator and that too would help blood flow

Research from the University of Reading suggests that two glasses of champagne a day may be good for your heart and circulation. The researchers have found that drinking champagne wine daily in moderate amounts causes improvements in the way blood vessels function.

Champagne does this by increasing the availability of nitric oxide, a vascular active molecule which controls blood pressure. It is able to induce these effects because it contains polyphenols, plant chemicals from the red grapes and white grapes used in champagne production.

When you drink champagne, these polyphenols get absorbed into the circulation where they are able to act on the vascular system. Specifically, they appear to slow down the natural removal of nitric oxide from our blood, meaning that it will have a longer time to act on blood vessels and so improve the flow of blood around the body.

High nitric oxide levels in the blood, as a result of drinking champagne, can have beneficial effects, because as well as increasing blood flow, it may help to decrease both blood pressure and the likelihood of blood clots forming. This could therefore reduce the risks of suffering from cardiovascular disease and stroke, but more research needs to be done to determine the long term effects of daily champagne consumption.

Dr Jeremy Spencer, from the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences said: "Our research has shown that drinking around two glasses of champagne can have beneficial effects on the way blood vessels function, in a similar way to that observed with red wine. We always encourage a responsible approach to alcohol consumption, but the fact that drinking champagne has the potential to reduce the risks of suffering from cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke, is very exciting news."


No comments: