By Mike Lillis - 09/01/10 09:52 PM EDT
The popular diet drug Meridia increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes in patients with pre-existing heart conditions, according to a report published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine.
The study arrives just weeks before a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel will meet to examine the safety risks associated with Meridia, which is manufactured by Abbott Laboratories.
Although the FDA in January issued a warning that Meridia shouldn't be taken by those with heart conditions, Wednesday's findings have added fuel to the argument from consumer groups that the drug should be banned altogether — a step taken by European health officials in January.
Sidney Wolfe, director of health research at consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said Wednesday’s report comes as "no surprise."
"Cases of otherwise unexplained heart attacks in young Meridia users had been reported to the FDA" going back to 2002, Wolfe said in a statement.
Editorialists at The New England Journal of Medicine are also supporting a Meridia ban.
"It is difficult to discern a credible rationale for keeping this medication on the market," they wrote in an editorial accompanying the findings.