by Jodi A. Shaw
Surprise, surprise, another diet pill may be pulled from store shelves.
Meridia, manufactured by Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories, is under review by the FDA after a study raised concerns that the pill increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Yesterday, fully half of the FDA’s advisory panel recommended that it be pulled from the market.
Available only by prescription in the U.S. and Canada, Meridia is intended for patients who need to lose 30+ pounds. Its chief ingredient is sibutramine, which suppresses appetite and can cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate in some patients. It has a long list of possible negative side effects, including anorexia, which can be devastating to the mental, emotional, and physical health of those taking the drug.
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, almost 60% of adult Canadians (about 14.1 million) are overweight or obese, and it’s no surprise that many of them turn to diet pills to shed weight. Manufacturers usually advise that they should be taken in combination with a calorie-reduced diet and exercise. But how often does that happen? “I know a guy who takes HydroxyCut,” a friend told me once. “He eats whatever he wants and doesn’t gain a pound.” That’s the truth about diet pills, really. They become a substitute for healthy eating and exercise.
The drug companies also insist they aren’t habit-forming, but, as a former diet pill addict, I can attest otherwise. My addiction went hand in hand with an eating disorder, but even when I started to eat normally, I struggled to get off the pills. Losing weight is difficult, and given the thin-obsessed society we live in, women remain extremely susceptible to their allure.
I’ve been off them, and maintaining a healthy, comfortable weight, for several years now. In fact, I’m thinner now than I was for much of the time I took diet pills — a feat achieved simply by healthy eating and exercise.
I wasted a lot of money filling the pockets of the diet industry when the real solution was free. Not only in financial terms, but also free of negative side effects. Eating a well-balanced diet and exercising is a guaranteed way to keep your body trim and in shape, and, unlike many diet pills, is good for your overall physical and cardiovascular health. But it’s not a popular choice because it isn’t easy. It takes time and effort, dedication and education, and the results aren’t immediate.
But it’s worth it. This past weekend, I completed my first marathon — that’s 42.2 km of running — and I have never been so proud of my body. There isn’t a diet pill in the world that can make me feel that sort of pride.
Should Meridia be taken off the shelves, I’m sure it won’t be gone for long. It will likely be reformulated and returned, like so many others. Even so, I’d advise everyone, overweight, obese, or not, to keep it and all other diet pills out of your medicine cabinet. I’m glad they’ve been banished from mine.