Contact: Cindy Karra -- 202-974-5009

In Spite of Diet Drug Withdrawal, The War on Obesity Must Continue Says Dr. C. Everett Koop

Washington, DC; September 19, 1997 -- In light of the voluntary withdrawal this week of two of the nation's most popular prescription obesity medications, Dr. C. Everett Koop, the former U.S. Surgeon General, today urged overweight Americans and the country's physicians not to give up on the war against obesity because the stakes -- in terms of disability and disease -- are much too high.

"As the nation heads towards a new millennium, the disease that no one likes to talk about -- obesity -- has become the second leading cause of preventable death in this country, resulting in about 300,000 lives lost each year," said Dr. Koop. "We can't lose sight of this fact which is why the war on obesity must continue unabated."

Towards this end, Dr. Koop reiterated the message that has been the cornerstone of Shape Up America!, the anti-obesity crusade he founded in 1994: for the vast majority of overweight people, a weight loss in the range of 5 to 10 percent of initial body weight can be achieved and sustained through changes in dietary habits and increased physical activity. Even if the weight loss is not as great as what people can achieve with adjunctive drug therapies, Dr. Koop stressed that any loss of body fat produces immediate health benefits such as reducing blood pressure and triglyceride levels; improving glucose handling; and reducing the risk of heart disease. Furthermore, adopting improved eating habits and increased physical activity resulting in prevention of weight gain is also a successful outcome.

Dr. Koop called upon physicians to intervene with their overweight patients whose obesity increases their risk for serious disease. "It is especially important that physicians reach out to their obese patients at this time, underscoring that the door has not been closed on help or hope," said Dr. Koop.

At the same time, Dr. Koop encouraged all overweight Americans to become patient activists, learning about the health risks associated with obesity and the ways to minimize these risks. Specifically, Dr. Koop outlined this prescription for achieving and maintaining a healthier weight:

Dr. Koop's message comes in response to the decision by Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories to voluntarily withdraw Pondimin (fenfluramine chloride) tablets and Redux (dexfenfluramine hydrochloride) capsules based on information regarding heart valve abnormalities in patients using these medications. Echoing the views of other public health organizations, Shape Up America! concurs that this voluntary move was a responsible decision and supports Wyeth-Ayerst's efforts to form an expert panel to address the unresolved issues regarding potential adverse effects from these diet medications.

Shape Up America! also went on record as supporting the Food and Drug Administration's regulatory and scientific review that led to the approval of these prescription diet medications. "FDA conducted a lengthy and comprehensive review based on all the science that was currently available," said Dr. Koop, who founded Shape Up America!

"The agency acted responsibly and consulted the leading obesity researchers and medical authorities before reaching its decision. Appropriate analysis of risks and benefits was conducted using the data at hand. There are no reasons for recriminations: FDA did its job and did it well," Dr. Koop added.

Currently, patients and physicians can find specific medical guidance and practical treatment information on the diagnosis and treatment of obesity through two new publications developed by Shape Up America! -- Guidance for Treatment of Adult Obesity, developed for practitioners, and Healthy Weight, Healthy Living, a reference manual for the layman. These publications can be downloaded for free by visiting the Shape Up America! website at