The fen-phen finale: a study of weight loss and valvular heart disease

Obes Res. 1998 Jul;6(4):278-84. doi: 10.1002/j.1550-8528.1998.tb00350.x.


Objective: To assess weight loss, as well as the prevalence of valvular heart disease, in 21 obese women who completed 2 years of treatment by fenfluramine and phentermine (fen-phen) in June 1997.

Research methods and procedures: Patients were 21 of 22 women who had completed a 1-year, open-label trial of fen-phen combined with lifestyle modification. This study describes the results of a second year of treatment. The presence of valvular heart disease, defined as aortic regurgitation of mild or greater severity and/or mitral regurgitation of moderate or greater severity, was assessed using two-dimensional, color Doppler and pulsed- and continuous-wave Doppler examinations.

Results: At 2 years, the 21 patients had a mean reduction in initial weight of 13.9 + 10.0%, which was significantly (p<0.001) smaller than their 1-year loss of 17.1 +/- 8.7%. Nine of 21 patients reported that they took fen-phen irregularly during the last 4 months of the study because of fears of developing health complications. These nine patients had a 2-year weight loss of 8.7 +/- 7.5%, compared with a significantly (p<0.04) larger loss of 17.6 +/- 10.5% for participants who reported taking medication regularly. Six of 20 (30%) patients met criteria for valvular heart disease. None of the six had signs or symptoms of this condition.

Discussion: Fenfluramine was withdrawn from the market on September 15, 1997 because of concerns that it was associated with valvular heart disease. The present findings are discussed in terms of the potentially favorable long-term benefits of combining lifestyle modification with weight loss medications that are both safe and effective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Appetite
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Echocardiography, Doppler
  • Female
  • Fenfluramine / adverse effects*
  • Fenfluramine / therapeutic use
  • Heart Valve Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Heart Valve Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Phentermine / adverse effects*
  • Phentermine / therapeutic use
  • Prevalence
  • Weight Loss*


  • Lipids
  • Fenfluramine
  • Phentermine