Health Canada says Abbott Labs is withdrawing weight loss drug, citing heart side effects

Friday, October 8, 2010

Abbott pulls Meridia off the market in Canada

NEW YORK — The weight loss drug Meridia is being be pulled off the market in Canada, the nation’s health department said Friday, because of links to side effects like heart attacks and strokes.

Abbott Laboratories is voluntarily withdrawing the drug, Health Canada said.

European regulators withdrew the drug in January, and the Food and Drug Administration may do the same in the U.S. That decision could come as early as Friday.

Data released in November showed cardiovascular risks for patients with heart disease was 11 percent greater, compared with 10 percent of those taking a placebo.

The decision in Canada was based on that data, officials said. Health Canada had already issued several warnings about the drug over the years.

“In light of this concern, and the accumulating scientific evidence on the safety and efficacy of Meridia, it has been determined that the benefits no longer outweigh the risks for this drug,” the agency said.

Health Canada says it will also address any issues with generic versions of the drug.

Meridia, or sibutramine, was approved in Canada in December 2000. It has been on the market in the U.S. since 1997. Sales of the drug have fallen in recent years, and Abbott expects global sales of Meridia to be less than $100 million in 2010. It expects sales in the U.S. to be less than $30 million. Abbott had overall drug sales of $30.77 billion in 2009.

Abbott Laboratories is based in North Chicago, Ill. In midday trading, its stock rose 23 cents to $52.81.

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