What is Meridia&Reg;?

D. Jeffress

Meridia® is a prescription medication that aids in weight loss when it is taken in conjunction with a steady diet and exercise regimen. The drug works by enhancing the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain that, among other functions, contribute to regulating feelings of hunger, anxiety, and pleasure. Meridia® is available in oral capsules that are usually prescribed to be taken once or twice a day for several weeks. When patients follow their doctors' instructions about medication use and diet routines, they can expect to notice significant weight loss within the first month of treatment. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested that the company that makes this drug voluntarily withdraw it from the market, which it was in October 2010.

The active ingredient in Meridia inhibits the re-uptake of serotonin in the brain.
The active ingredient in Meridia inhibits the re-uptake of serotonin in the brain.

The active ingredient in Meridia®, sibutramine hydrochloride monohydrate, inhibits the re-uptake of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in the brain. It is believed that deficiencies in these neurotransmitters may play a role in the urges and anxiety that people with weight problems experience. By stopping re-uptake by neural cells, the amount of neurotransmitters available to trigger pleasurable feelings increases. An individual becomes less likely to feel depressed, anxious, or obsessive about eating food.

Meridia® does not itself stimulate metabolism or contribute to actual weight loss; it simply helps a person control urges and follow through with healthy diet and exercise routines. The drug is typically considered an option only when obese patients are unable to lose weight or establish better lifestyle habits on their own. A patient who is prescribed Meridia® is typically instructed to meet with a nutritionist to create a custom diet low-calorie, nutrient-rich diet plan as well.

Most people who take Meridia® did not experience severe side effects. The most common reported symptoms include stomach cramps, constipation, dizziness, and headaches. Some patients had trouble sleeping, joint aches, nausea, and vomiting.

The drug can potentially result in high blood pressure and a rapid heartbeat, which may cause breathing difficulties and chest pain. In rare cases, people can experience seizures or heart attacks after taking the medication. The potential for cardiovascular events is what caused the FDA to request that Meridia® be taken off the market.

Most patients lost at least five pounds within four weeks of taking Meridia® and continued to see steady results for several months. When it was available, the drug could be taken steadily for up to two years, but many people were able to stop taking medications well before that time once they ingrained healthy diet and exercise into their daily lives. People who need still assistance in losing weight should talk to their doctor about alternative treatments.

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