FACTBOX-Diet pills' weighty safety issues
Feb 7 (Reuters) - Obesity drugs have been in use since at least the 1800s. While many have been very effective, almost none have been without serious risks, including addiction, heart problems, liver damage and nerve malfunction.
1800s-2000: RAINBOW PILLS AND "FEN-PHEN"
* Late 1800s - Animal thyroid was used as a remedy for obesity, but it caused hyperthyroidism and other serious risks.
* 1930s - Dinitrophenol reduced weight by speeding up metabolism, but also led to nerve malfunction. It was sold legally before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gained the power to regulate drugs in 1938.
* 1940s - Amphetamine worked by suppressing the appetite, but was found to be extremely addictive. It was widely used to treat weight-loss during World War Two and afterwards, but was eventually banned as an obesity medication by the FDA in 1979.
* 1960s - Rainbow pills, a combination of amphetamine and heart medications digitalis and diuretics, were linked to several deaths.
* 1967 - An epidemic of chronic high blood pressure in people in Austria and Switzerland was found to be related to the intake of appetite-supressant Aminorex, leading to the drug's removal from the European market.
* 1997 - Wyeth, now a part of Pfizer Inc, withdrew its "fen-phen" combination, due to serious heart risks. The combination contained Fenfluramine, which caused potentially fatal pulmonary hypertension and heart valve probems, and Phentermine, which is still considered safe in low doses.
* 1999 - Xenical, from Roche Holding AG, was approved by the FDA to be sold as a prescription weight-loss drug, but it can cause liver problems and uncontrolled bowel movements. GlaxoSmithKline markets a lower-dose, over-the-counter version of the drug, called Alli.
THE 2000s: MORE RISKS, MORE BANS
* 2004 - The FDA banned the use of dietary supplements containing Ephedrine, another appetite suppressant that is also known as Ma Huang and used in traditional Chinese medicine.
* 2008 - Sanofi pulled the plug on its diet drug Acomplia after barely two years of sales, as European regulators asked for the drug's withdrawal due to its psychiatric side-effects. An FDA panel had rejected it in 2007.
* 2010 - Abbott Laboratories agreed to withdraw Meridia (sibutramine) from the U.S. market after data from a clinical study showed the drug increased the risk of heart attack and stroke. Approved by the FDA in November 1997, Meridia brought in 2008 sales of $340 million. The drug was also banned in Europe earlier the same year.
2012: NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
* Vivus Inc's Qsymia, approved in July 2012 and launched in September 2012, is a combination of phentermine and anti-epilepsy drug topiramate. Qsymia can increase heart rate and also cause oral clefts in babies, if taken by pregnant women.
* Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc's Belviq works by making people feel full after eating smaller amounts of food. Approved by the FDA in June, it is yet to be launched, pending a final classification on its risk of abuse. The FDA has advised against using Belviq during pregnancy, as the drug may cause disturbances in attention or memory, among other side-effects.
2013 & BEYOND: WAITING IN THE WINGS
* Orexigen Therapeutics Inc expects to re-pitch its once-rejected Contrave to the FDA this year and win approval by year-end. The drug will be sold by Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical in the United States, if approved.
* The world's biggest insulin provider, Novo Nordisk , is studying its type 2 diabetes drug Victoza as a treatment for the seriously obese. The Denmark-based company plans to release pivotal trial results from these studies in the first half of this year.
(Compiled by Zeba Siddiqui and Esha Dey)