The Most Dangerous Weight Loss Meds

Someday we're all going to look back at the sad history of weight loss pills and just shake our heads. While a ton of them have been created and hiked over the past several decades, few have done much to really help us. However, several have done plenty to hurt us. If this was a full list it would be depressingly long. But let's just look at a few of the most destructive and see what we can learn from this whole mess.


In the early 1970s, a weight loss drug called Fenfluramine was introduced to the market. It was designed to increase serotonin, which regulates both our moods and our appetites. When serotonin is increased appetite is decreased and we eat less.

But f Fenfluramine did more than decrease appetite. Turns out it also caused a couple of little conditions like pulmonary hypertension and heart valve disease. Since not many people had used Fenfluramine until the 1990s, it took a while for these issues to get noticed. But then it became the main ingredient in meds like Phen-Fen and sales skyrocketed and the health of its users plummeted.

Fenfluramine was eventually banned in the US and elsewhere in 1997. Later, when the lawsuits began, over 5700 Fenfluramine users were tested for adverse effects. And here's what was found: 20% of women and 12% of men suffered from heart valve disease. All ex-users of Fenfluramine faced a 700% increased risk of requiring heart valve surgery.

Patients were forced to accept that they would experience further heart valve damage even after they stopped using the drug.

In the end, drug companies were forced to pay billions of dollars in settlements to Fenfluramine users. Fenfluramine wrote itself into the history books as perhaps the most sinister weight-loss drug of all time.


However, a physical damage is just one way that a weight loss pill can suck the life out of you. Another way is to lure you into a deep dark depression. Such was the case with Rimonabant.

Rimonabant never found its way to the United States but was sold in Europe for a couple years after its approval by the European Commission in 2006. By the time it was yanked out of Europe in 2008, it was being used by hundreds of thousands of people in 56 countries including 100,000 in Britain alone.

It was sold under the trade name Acomplia and it certainly did accomplish one thing - the psychological torture of many of its users. Among British users of a complete 2,500 people reported adverse reactions in the mere two years of its existence. Seven deaths were linked to the drug including one suicide.

When the European Medicines Agency suspended the drug's license in 2008, they not only found that 10% of users were suffering severe mental health side effects. But that the drug was proving far less effective in real life than it had shown in clinical trials.


If you have the same type of morbid thought patterns that I do, you may have already considered whether you would prefer a diseased heart valve or crippling depression as a weight loss side effect. Well, I have one more for you - how about bleeding in the brain?

Such as the destructive force of Phenylpropanolamine or PPA. PPA was all the rage in the 1990s after some mid-1980s research showed that it decreased appetite and therefore bodyweight in lab rats. It was eventually quite common in over-the-counter weight loss products as well as many cold medications.

But in the year 2000, the FDA issued a warning. It turns out that PPA was responsible for up to 500 strokes per year among 18 to 49-year-old users. Specifically, these were hemorrhagic strokes or bleeding into the brain.

In Canada, PPA was banned in 2001. While it took another four years and hundreds of more needless strokes before the FDA did the same in 2005.


Now you may be thinking: why should I worry? All of the bad drugs were been years ago. Problem solved, right?

Well, no. Some of these drugs are still being sold in various parts of the world. And it's also worth noting that these drugs are usually on the market for many years before anything is done to remove them. And in the case of the FDA and astute whistleblower offered some insight into why.

Dr. David Graham is an epidemiologist who spent much of his career inside the FDA. He was in charge of studying the safety records of drugs after they had been approved and were being used by the general public.

In 2005 he was asked what he believed was broken within the FDA and what could be done to fix it, And he responded with this: "The FDA is inherently biased in favor of the pharmaceutical industry. It views the industry as its client, whose interest it must represent and advance. It views its primary mission as approving as many drugs as it can regardless of whether the drugs are safe or needed."

Just one more reason why you should admit to getting clean and thinner rather than poisoning yourself into a hospital bed or early death.