Sibutramine is a chemical that is used in weight loss products to suppress the appetite and moderately increase the metabolism. In South Africa, this chemical is present in prescription weight loss drugs like Reductil although minute doses may be found in over-the-counter (OTC) slimming products. Since early 2000 there has been much hype in the United States surrounding the use of sibutramine in the popular scheduled drug Meridia. This prompted many consumer safety groups to petition the FDA and request a ban on the sale of this drug. (Public Citizen : Sibutramine).
South Africans however have not been as vocal and today sibutramine is available in several weight loss products with little awareness about this chemical. If used appropriately in a medical weight loss program which is supervised by a medical doctor, the risks associated with the use of sibutramine should be minimal. However many ‘natural’ and herbal weight loss products are now slipping in larger doses of sibutramine into their end product and marketing it as a ‘100% safe’ weight loss product to the unsuspecting public.
The Medicines Control Council (MCC) strictly regulates the dose of sibutramine hydrochloride that can be contained within OTC and scheduled products. However, the limited regulation around chemical analysis and clinical trials for herbal products in South Africa means that many products slip through the gaps.
How does sibutramine work?
The weight loss effects of sibutramine can be attributed to its appetite suppressant action as well thermogenic ability. This means that less calories will be taken in through food while the body will “burn” more calories at rest. Sibutramine is a serotonin/noepinephrine reputake inhibitor.
Serotonin and norepinephrine are naturally occurring chemicals within the human body and sibutramine slows down the reabsorption of these chemicals. This in turn affects the ‘satiety center’ of the brain which is responsible for your appetite. At the same time, the cells of the body are prompted to keep burning calories even if there is no physical activity requiring this higher energy output. A low calorie diet should be maintained at the same time as using a weight loss drug containing sibutramine.
Less Calories In + More Calories Burnt = Weight Loss
What are the side effects of sibutramine?
Some of the side effects of sibutramine include dryness of the mouth, increased heart rate, palpitations, abnormal heart beat, hot flushes, sweating, high blood pressure, chest pain, dizziness, headaches, tingling and numbness, anxiety and sleeplessness.
Sibutramine should not be used by any person under the age of 18 years and should be avoided in persons over 65 years. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have a history of cardiovascular conditions or are at risk of these conditions, have a history of mental health conditions or currently taking any antipsychotic medication, then you should not be using sibutramine.
Patients with a history of liver or kidney problems as well diabetics an patients with an overactive thyroid gland should avoid this drug.
What are the dangers of sibutramine?
Sibutramine may put you at at risk of a heart attack, especially if you have uncontrolled hypertension or a history of cardiovascular disease. There have been cases of heart attacks among young adults in their 20s after using sibutramine although there was no reported history of heart disease. However it cannot be conclusively ascertained if they did not have any pre-existing cardiac conditions which may have been a possibility especially if they were obese.
Heart failure, enlargement of the heart, strokes and arrhythmias may also arise after using sibutramine. Women who are pregnant run the risk of a miscarriage if they use sibutramine during pregnancy. There are also a host of developmental problems that can arise in a baby if the mother takes sibutramine while breastfeeding.