American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs

, Volume 10, Issue 5, pp 321–334

Cardiovascular Risk-Benefit Profile of Sibutramine

Review Article

DOI: 10.2165/11584800-000000000-00000

Cite this article as:
Scheen, A.J. Am J Cardiovasc Drugs (2010) 10: 321. doi:10.2165/11584800-000000000-00000


Sibutramine is a combined norepinephrine and serotonin reuptake inhibitor used as an antiobesity agent to reduce appetite and promote weight loss in combination with diet and exercise. At a daily dose of 10–20 mg, it was initially considered to have a good safety profile, as it does not induce primary pulmonary hypertension or adverse effects on cardiac valves, in contrast to previous reports relating to some other antiobesity agents. However, it exerts disparate effects on cardiovascular risk factors. On the one hand, sibutramine may have antiatherogenic activities, as it improves insulin resistance, glucose metabolism, dyslipidemia, and inflammatory markers, with most of these effects resulting from weight loss rather than from an intrinsic effect of the drug. On the other hand, because of its specific mode of action, sibutramine exerts a peripheral sympathomimetic effect, which induces a moderate increase in heart rate and attenuates the reduction in BP attributable to weight loss or even slightly increases BP. It may also prolong the QT interval, an effect that could induce arrhythmias. Because of these complex effects, it is difficult to conclude what the final impact of sibutramine on cardiovascular outcomes might be. Sibutramine has been shown to exert favorable effects on some surrogate cardiovascular endpoints such as reduction of left ventricular hypertrophy and improvement of endothelial dysfunction. A good cardiovascular safety profile was demonstrated in numerous 1- to 2-year controlled trials, in both diabetic and nondiabetic well selected patients, as well as in several observational studies. However, since 2002, several cardiovascular adverse events (hypertension, tachycardia, arrhythmias, and myocardial infarction) have been reported in sibutramine-treated patients. This led to a contraindication of the use of this antiobesity agent in patients with established coronary heart disease, previous stroke, heart failure, or cardiac arrhythmias. SCOUT (Sibutramine Cardiovascular and Diabetes Outcome Study) was designed to prospectively evaluate the efficacy/safety ratio of sibutramine in a high-risk population. The efficacy/safety results of the first 6-week lead-in open period of treatment with sibutramine 10 mg/day were reassuring in 10 742 overweight/obese high-risk subjects (97% had cardiovascular disease, 88% had hypertension, and 84% had type 2 diabetes mellitus). However, the final results of SCOUT showed that long-term (5 years’) treatment with sibutramine (10–15 mg/day) exposed subjects with pre-existing cardiovascular disease to a significantly increased risk for nonfatal myocardial infarction and nonfatal stroke, but not cardiovascular death or all-cause mortality. Because the benefit of sibutramine as a weight-loss aid seems not to outweigh the cardiovascular risks, the European Medicines Agency recommended the suspension of marketing authorizations for sibutramine across the EU. The US FDA stated that the drug should carry a ‘black box’ warning due to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack in patients with a history of cardiovascular disease. In conclusion, concern still persists about the safety profile of sibutramine regarding cardiovascular outcomes, and the drug should not be prescribed for overweight/obese patients with a high cardiovascular risk profile.

Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Diabetes, Nutrition and Metabolic Disorders and Clinical Pharmacology Unit, Department of MedicineUniversity of LiègeLiègeBelgium