THE SKINNY: Meridia was approved for use in the United States in 1997 as one of the latest in a new generation of appetite suppressants. It works by increasing the level of serotonin? the chemical in the brain that triggers the pleasure center?and, to a lesser extent, a brain chemical called norepinephrine that is linked to changes in mood. Meridia controls your appetite so that you?re less likely to paw around for McDonald?s two- for- one coupons in your glove compartment. And the drug does this quite well.
According to research: If you follow a reduced- calorie diet while taking this drug, you can typically lose 5 to 8 percent of your weight over six months, on average. That is compared with 1 to 4 percent of weight in dieters following only a diet and taking a placebo (look-alike) pill. If you knock off pounds during the first six months, keep using Meridia and you?re likely to keep them off, according to studies, many of them conducted by drug makers. This research hints that Meridia may be a good tool for keeping weight off.
DOWNSIDE: Meridia can raise blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke. It should not be taken by people with liver or kidney problems. Anyone who takes Meridia should treat it with respect and not as a wonder drug or miracle cure.
SHOULD YOU TAKE IT? Clearly, Meridia isn?t a drug that just anyone can take. It?s indicated only if you?ve been diagnosed as obese (a body mass index [BMI] over 30) or overweight (a BMI over 27), with other risk factors such as diabetes or high cholesterol. By promoting weight loss, Meridia indirectly helps regulate blood sugar and helps keep cholesterol in check. If you?re considered overweight, your doctor may prescribe it for you, especially if you have cholesterol and blood sugar problems. You shouldn?t take Meridia if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, heart disease, congestive heart failure, or heart rhythm disturbances or if you are taking other drugs such as antidepressants that increase serotonin levels.