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Controversial drug approved

25th June 2008

An obesity drug has been approved for NHS use in England and Wales, despite safety fears.

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The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has approved the use of rimonabant, despite it being linked to an increased risk of depression and suicide.

The drug is not approved for use in Scotland or the United States, though many people in Britain are already using the drug which has the brand name Acomplia.

When coupled with exercise it can lead to a 10% weight loss, though the European Medicines Agency warned that rimonabant may be unsafe for patients who are also taking anti-depressants.

Under the ruling patients will not be allowed to have the drug on NHS unless they have tried and failed using alternative drugs.

Doctors have also been told not to give it to patients with a history of depression after evidence suggested one in 10 people might develop mental side-effects.

Dr David Haslam of the National Obesity Forum welcomed the decision and said: “We can be absolutely reassured that they have looked closely at the evidence and made an appropriate decision.

“This is a very good drug, and there are very many people who have tried everything else, including other drugs, with little success, who might benefit from it."

But Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the UK Faculty for Public Health, said that drugs are not the long-term solution to weight loss.

“Ultimately the answer has to be: eat a little less and move a little more," he said.

 

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