Obesity drug dropped as 'too risky'

GPs warn treatment options should not be limited where a benefit is shown.

Dr Haslam: 'benefits lost'
Dr Haslam: 'benefits lost'

GPs have expressed disappointment at the suspension of the weight-loss drug rimonabant.

Dr Ian Campbell, a GP in Nottingham and medical director of the charity Weight Concern, said prescribers are aware of the drug's adverse effects on anxiety and depression and monitored patients closely.

'It is disappointing for those patients for whom the drug is working,' he said.

Around 20,000 patients in the UK have been treated with rimonabant, marketed as Acomplia, but last week the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) decided that its benefits no longer outweigh its risks.

Prescribers should not issue any new prescriptions for the drug, the EMEA said.

Patients do not need to stop treatment immediately, but those who wish to stop can do so at any time, the EMEA advised.

Dr David Haslam, a GP in Hertfordshire and clinical director of the National Obesity Forum, said the move was 'a great shame'.

'I have patients whose diabetes is well controlled who have benefited from rimonabant and that benefit will end when their treatment ends.'

The drug's manufacturer Sanofi-Aventis said it was complying with the EMEA's recommendation and would provide additional evidence for re-evaluation of the drug's benefit-risk profile in patients with diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The EMEA said its assessment showed an increased risk of psychiatric disorders in patients taking rimonabant. In addition, the agency said that the drug's effectiveness in clinical practice had been found to be more limited than was expected.

Sir Michael Rawlins, chairman of NICE, told GP that the institute had withdrawn its June guidance, which recommended the drug for third-line use after orlistat and sibutramine.

tom.moberly@haymarket.com.

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