Controversial Diet Drugs Can Be Replaced: UT Professor

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A weight-control drug just approved for use in the United States may end the controversy over diet pills banned in Tennessee, a University of Tennessee-Knoxville pharmacy professor said Wednesday.

Dr. Glen Farr said the new drug dexfenfluramine, known by the trade name Redux, was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration but remains unavailable in Tennessee.

“If the new drug were made available in Tennessee, it would solve the controversy,” Farr said. “I recommended that to the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners. It is an effective appetite suppressant with few side effects.”

Farr said the new drug can be used instead of fenfluramine, which controls food cravings, and phentermine, a stimulant which counters lethargy and fatigue caused by fenfluramine.

Fenfluramine and phentermine are combined into a single pill to control diet. Known in the industry as “phen-fen,” it was banned in Tennessee in 1991 because it is addictive, often abused and can cause health problems, Farr said.

Some Tennesseans, however, go to other states to buy the combination drug, and a pharmaceutical company has sued to lift the ban.

Farr said dexfenfluramine, the new drug, has been used in other countries for about 15 years with no addictions and no abuse problems reported. He said it is also proven to have better long-term benefits than the combination of the other two drugs.

The state has approved a study of the drugs at the University of Tennessee-Memphis.

Contact: Dr. Glen Farr (423-974-6605)

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