Meridia May Do More Harm than Good

This month, the FDA will decide the fate of the controversial diet pill Meridia.

On Wed., Sept. 1, the New England Journal of Medicine weighed in with an editorial calling for it to be pulled from the market after a new study revealed an increased risk for heart attacks in some patients.

The unusually critical editorial came as a result of the largest long-term study of Meridia. Almost 10,000 overweight or obese people with cardiovascular disease or diabetes were followed for three and a half years, reports CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jonathan LaPook.

The group taking Meridia lost on average about 9 lbs., but had a 16 percent higher risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

The drug company, Abbott, told CBS News there's already a label warning that the drug should not be used in patients with known cardiovascular disease.

But the editors of the New England Journal wrote that since Meridia has "a worrisome cardiovascular risk profile," that "it is difficult to discern a credible rationale for keeping this medication on the market."

"Meridia plays a small but significant role," said Dr. Louis Aronne, a weight loss expert who has advised Abbott. "We use Meridia when other types of treatments down't work.

An FDA committee will meet in two weeks to decide Meridia's fate.

CBS Early Show anchor Harry Smith spoke to LaPook about the controversy:

Smith: The company says there's already a warning label. Isn't that enough?

LaPook: Harry, the problem is while it's true there's a warning label and in this study only patients with known underlying cardiovascular disease were at increased risk for heart attack and stroke, in the real world it's hard to know who those patients are.

Smith: Who is at increased risk for cardio advantage collar disease?

LaPook: About half of all patients who die suddenly in heart attack have no known history of heart disease.

For more information, all you need to do is go to CBS' partner in health news WebMD.com and search "weight loss drugs."