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Weight Loss Drugs and Stroke
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Weight Loss Drugs & Stroke - Study

A new study from researchers at Yale University finds that weight loss preparations like Dexatrim and Acutrim can increase the odds of having a so-called hemorrhagic stroke 16-fold.

Researchers were investigating the possible link between a central nervous stimulant in these drugs called phenylpropanolamine (PPA) and higher stroke rate. More than 30 of these incidents have occurred in people using drugs with PPA since 1979.

The 5-year study looked at more than 700 patients who had been hospitalized for stroke and matched them up with nearly 1,400 similar people around the country who had not experienced a stroke. "[T]he results ... suggest that PPA increases the risk for hemorrhagic stroke," write Ralph Horwitz, MD, of the Yale University School of Medicine, and his colleagues in the study. A hemorrhagic stroke is a severe bleeding episode in the brain. The Yale researchers have submitted the report to the FDA for review.

PPA is also used in cough and cold remedies, and the researchers found a slightly elevated stroke risk in this group. However, the 16-fold increased risk was only found in those taking PPA-drugs for weight control. According to the researchers, many of the victims were young women who had a stroke after taking just one dose of these medications.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), a trade group for over-the-counter (OTC) drug and dietary supplement makers, says other long-term studies show that PPA is safe for normal and overweight people.

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To reduce health risks, do not buy weight loss pills or supplements without first consulting your doctor. And when taking weight loss drugs or pills, be sure to check in with your doctor regularly.

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