Italy has become the first country to ban the use of the anti-obesity drug sibutramine, prompting fears that other European countries will follow suit. The drug is sold as Reductil in Italy.
The Italian health ministry has suspended sales of products containing sibutramine, patented by US-based Abbott Laboratories, following 50 reports of adverse events. The Ministry said that it had received evidence of at least two deaths caused by the drug.
"Based on 50 reports of adverse events during treatment, the [Italian] Pharmaceutical Commission decided that the beneficial effects of the drug must be re-evaluated," the commission said.
The Italian decision means that the European drug regulator, the European Medicines Evaluation Agency (EMEA), is now likely to call for an EU-wide evaluation of the drug at a meeting of its Committee of Proprietary Medicinal Products later this month. The Italian government has not yet referred the matter to EMEA, however.