Background: Benfluorex was withdrawn from European markets in June 2010 after reports of an association with heart valve lesions. The link between benfluorex and valve regurgitations was based on small observational studies and retrospective estimations. We therefore designed an echocardiography-based multicenter study to compare the frequency of left heart valve regurgitations in diabetic patients exposed to benfluorex for at least 3 months and in diabetic control subjects never exposed to the drug.
Methods and results: This reader-blinded, controlled study conducted in 10 centers in France between February 2010 and September 2011 prospectively included 376 diabetic subjects previously exposed to benfluorex who were referred by primary care physicians for echocardiography and 376 diabetic control subjects. Through the use of propensity scores, 293 patients and 293 control subjects were matched for age, sex, body mass index, smoking, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and coronary artery disease. The main outcome measure was the frequency of mild or greater left heart valve regurgitations. In the matched sample, the frequency and relative risk (odds ratio) of mild or greater left heart valve regurgitations were significantly increased in benfluorex patients compared with control subjects: 31.0% versus 12.9% (odds ratio, 3.55; 95% confidence interval, 2.03-6.21) for aortic and/or mitral regurgitation, 19.8% versus 4.7% (odds ratio, 5.29; 95% confidence interval, 2.46-11.4) for aortic regurgitation, and 19.4% versus 9.6% (odds ratio, 2.38; 95% confidence interval, 1.27-4.45) for mitral regurgitation.
Conclusions: Our results indicate that the use of benfluorex is associated with a significant increase in the frequency of left heart valve regurgitations in diabetic patients. The natural history of benfluorex-induced valve abnormalities needs further research.