If one just stops to think about all the stories about dangerous, harmful and even illegal slimming pills being sold online by shady companies, it is easy to remember some of the most shocking news stories from the last couple of years. Sadly, these stories have little to no effect on different websites that continue to sell unregulated weight loss medications. It is important to note that in the UK, orlistat-based medications are the only one that can be legally obtained. These include Xenical, its generic version named simply Orlistat and lower-concentration version Alli. These medications are, as of time of writing this article, the only weight loss pills that can be purchased in the UK legally and without risk.

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However, not all unregulated medications of this type are manufactured in illegal factories hidden throughout England – one of them actually had its life on the market in the previous years, before it was withdrawn due to high risk of experiencing harmful side effects. Sibutramine, better known as Reductil is probably the best known example.

What is Sibutramine (Reductil)?

Sibutramine was a commonly prescribed weight loss treatment that has been withdrawn from the UK market back in 2010 due to numerous safety concerns, most notably, it’s capability to significantly increase the risk of stroke and heart attack in otherwise healthy individuals. These same concerns facilitate the withdrawal of Reductil from the markets in the European Union, United States and China.

This medication has been prescribed for patients with a body mass index (BMI) equal or higher than 30 and those with BMI of 27 who were at risk of developing other obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. Similarly to other prescription-only slimming pills, Sibutramine was intended to be used in parallel with a wider fitness programme and dietary regimen.

How did Sibutramine work to facilitate weight loss?

Belonging to appetite suppressant category of pharmaceutical compounds, Sibutramine was released in 1998. Its mechanism of action involved direct impact on numerous neurotransmitters, most notably serotonin and noradrenaline. These compounds, known as inhibitory neurotransmitters are directly linked to the feelings of fullness following food consumption. By interfering with this mechanism, Sibutramine allowed its users to feel full and satisfied after consuming significantly less food as compared to the amount they would have to consume without this medication.

While Reductil never achieved the popularity and widespread use of Orlistat, in 2009, the number of its users peaked at 86.000.

Why was Sibutramine withdrawn from the market?

Despite the fact that this medication was rather widespread, Sibutramine was followed by numerous controversies from the moment it was first released to the market. First its efficiency came under scrutiny when independent study found out that users of these slimming pills lost an average of six and a half pounds per year – significantly less than most other weight loss treatments available at the time.

Truth be told, Reductil was marked as high risk for people with a history of strokes, heart problems or hypertension, but the mounting body of evidence implying even greater risks led the European Medicines Agency (better known by its acronym EMA) to reassess the medication in 1999 and then again in 2002. Both commissions found that the benefits of Sibutramine treatment outweighed the potential risks.

However, following the 2002 reassessment, the EMA instructed Abbott Laboratories, the pharmaceutical company behind Sibutramine, to undertake significant efforts in conducting a study based on a large sample of patients. As a result of this plea, the company followed the progress of nearly 10.000 users over the course of six years, comparing the findings with a placebo-controlled group.

The final results were rather discouraging – while Sibutramine did manage to facilitate weight loss, it was deemed modest and short-term at best. At the same time, the risks of heart problems seemed to be significantly higher than originally expected.

The suspension of Sibutramine licences

After the findings of this study were published and reviewed, the EMA suspended all licences for Sibutramine in January 2010, citing the harmful side effects such as increased risk of strokes and non-fatal heart attacks as the main reasons. This relevant authority concluded that the risks associated with this weight loss pill significantly outweigh the benefits, thus ordering the withdrawal from the market.

Despite this, Sibutramine can still be obtained illegally and is a relatively common ingredient of unregulated diet pills, many of which masquerade as herbal remedies and supplements. So, despite Sibutramine’s withdrawal from the market, the Food Standards Agency still actively combats this harmful and illicit slimming pill on the streets of England.

Legal alternatives to Sibutramine

If you are looking to obtain a legal, regulated and safe weight loss tablet, as mentioned, the only choices you have are orlistat-based slimming pills including branded tablet Xenical, generic equivalent Orlistat and OTC Alli pills. All of these are issued to be used alongside other lifestyle changes involving diet and exercise programmes which have proven to be ineffective on their own.

It is also worth mentioning that Alli, a lower-dose orlistat-based medication is actually available over-the-counter, but obtaining it will still require you to consult with a pharmacist.