Fenfluramine is an amphetamine used to control obesity that was introduced to the market in the early 1970s under the brand names Pondimin™, Ponderax™, and Adifax™. It quickly became one of the most popular weight-loss drugs of the day because of its claimed effectiveness. In combination with another weight-loss drug, it remained popular until its removal from the market in the late 1990s due to evidence of health problems in users. Users and doctors claim only a fair effect on long-term weight loss, and the consequences of the side effects far outweighed the benefits. It is important to note that those who used the drug gradually regained weight after usage stopped.
The compound 3-trifluoromethyl-N-ethylamphetamine works in the brain performing different functions to fool the neurological system into weight loss. The chemical, fenfluramine, is an anorectic that releases an elevated amount of serotonin into a person’s system and suppresses the appetite of the user. The amphetamine in the combination helps to increase the metabolic rate so that the user burns calories faster, which also assists in weight loss.
Individuals who took the drug experienced several unpleasant short-term side effects from using the diet pill. Increased levels of serotonin can have serious effects on mood, and many users experienced mild to severe depression. They complained of melancholy and drowsiness, while many felt sedated. Another unpleasant side effect of the drug for users was diarrhea and abdominal cramps.
Shortly after the introduction of fenfluramine, it was combined with another popular weight-loss drug known as phentermine. The combination of the two drugs, called Fen-phen, was supposed to cancel out the side effects of the other. The side effects of phentermine included difficulty sleeping, nervousness, irritability, and agitation. The combination of these two drugs proved problematic for a number of people primarily due to Fenfluramine.
In July of 1997, Mayo Clinic released a report stating that 24 patients who took Fen-phen developed serious heart conditions. After the report was published, more cases of pulmonary hypertension and cardiac fibrosis had been discovered around the world. The United States Food and Drug Administration ordered the drug to be removed from the market, and users filed a class action suit for the health damages caused by the drug. Since the removal, herbal versions claiming to produce the same results of fenfluramine are also sold on the market, but they are not considered as effective.