GPs in the UK have been told to stop prescribing Abbott’s anti-obesity drug Reductil after regulators recommended the suspension of its marketing license in Europe on concerns over cardiovascular side effects.

The move follows a review of Reductil’s (sibutramine) safety, based on data from the Sibutramine Cardiovascular OUtcomes Trial, which uncovered an increased risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke and concluded that the drug’s benefits - which were described as modest - did not outweigh its risks.

Reductil is licensed in the UK for use as an adjunctive therapy as part of a weight management programme, and last year 86,000 patients were dished out the treatment on the National Health Service, according to GP.

But the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Association has now advised doctors not to issue any new prescriptions for Reductil and to review the treatment of patients taking the drug, and has asked pharmacists to cease dispensing the medicine in light of the review’s findings.

US drugmaker Abbott has agreed to suspend European sales of the drug, but Eugene Sun, its vice president of global pharmaceutical R&D, stressed that the company believes “there are many patients who benefit from sibutramine” and that it “respectfully disagree with the committee’s opinion”.