Facts About Meridia

Tuesday, September 26, 2006 - 3:00pm

By Kathleen Goodwin, RD

Meridia is in a class of drugs known as monoamine reuptake inhibitors. It works similarly to some anti-depressants, such as Prozac, by inhibiting reuptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Serotonin promotes a feeling of calmness and satiety. Therefore, an increase in serotonin availability and circulation should promote lasting feelings of fullness. This, in a nutshell, was the theory behind the development of Meridia.

How does Meridia work?

Meridia was approved by the FDA in November 1997. Interestingly, this approval came just a few short months after the prescription drug Fenfluramine (the “fen” part of phen-fen) was banned from the drug market due to its link to heart valve damage. Though Meridia and Fenfluramine work similarly by increasing availability of circulating serotonin, Fenfluramine generates this effect throughout the entire blood stream, whereas Meridia increases serotonin availability only to the brain. Because Meridia has a more localized rather than systemic effect, it is thought to be a safer medication.

What are the side-effects/contraindications of Meridia?

As with other prescription weight loss medications, Meridia comes with many potential side effects. If you are looking for something to help you tackle the minor dimple on your 24-inch waist, Meridia is not for you. Your weight must present a greater health risk than the potential side effects of Meridia in order to get a prescription. If you have a BMI of 30 or more, or a BMI of 27 or more along with an obesity related condition (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.), you are qualified to take Meridia. The most common side effects of Meridia are headache, constipation, flu-like symptoms, nervousness and dry mouth. Meridia should not be used if you take monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAO) medications, other weight loss medications like Phentermine, SSRI antidepressants, or if you have medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, or anorexia.

How much weight will you lose with Meridia?

While many report that Meridia helps to keep their minds off of food by promoting feelings of fullness, it is far from a magic bullet. Studies show you should expect no more than about a 5-10% reduction in your current weight while taking Meridia and following a healthy lifestyle regimen. In a 12-month research study, participants who followed a reduced calorie diet and took 10mg of Meridia daily lost an average of 10 pounds, while those who followed a reduced calorie diet alone lost 3.5 pounds. The majority of the participants lost the bulk of their weight within six months and steadily maintained their losses. Other Meridia research studies have come to similar conclusions. Meridia appears to help people stay in compliance with a better lifestyle by limiting cravings, emotional eating and portions.

Meridia is not a long-term solution for obesity

If you are obese or overweight with an obesity related condition, you may wish to ask you doctor about taking Meridia while you make diet and lifestyle improvements. Meridia may help give you the “extra edge” you need to limit food portions and manage cravings. However, Meridia is not a long term solution for obesity; it is only a tool that may help you to manage the initial process of losing weight and maintaining it. The only permanent solution to lifetime management of obesity is following a healthy diet, moving your body more, and learning new ways to manage and solve your problem eating behaviors.