Rex Potts was only 44 years old when he had a heart attack. It came right out of the blue; although he was a large man, Potts was in good health with no history of heart disease in his family. "My grandparents lived well into their 90s; longevity runs in my family, not heart disease," says Potts. "There was absolutely no reason for my heart failure - except for Redux."
"I was outside working on my truck and my chest tightened up and I got short of breath. Then I got down on all fours and the ground started spinning around. I closed my eyes and thought I was going to pass out. It scared the hell out of me because nobody was around except me and the dogs. I was afraid that I was having a heart attack. Finally I managed to pull myself into the truck and drove a short way down the road to my parent's house. They have a blood pressure machine and it was 240 over 180 and my pulse was about 160. I sat for a while with my Mum and Dad but my blood pressure was still high so they insisted that I go to the hospital. We drove to the University of Arkansas medical center where they kept me for a few days."
Doctors ran a battery of tests on Potts but they didn't find any blocked arteries, nor could they tell him what precipitated the heart attack, but he thinks Redux was a contributing factor. "Taking Redux was like throwing good money out for bad money. Not only did I not lose weight, I am now disabled with congestive heart failure," says Potts.
More than 20 years ago, the FDA approved the drug fenluramine for the treatment of obesity but it was approved to be used only for a three month period. It comes as no surprise that this drug wouldn't be too popular - for most people, not much weight could be shed in such a short time, and of course, the pounds would just go back on once the drug was discontinued.
But then an FDA advisory committee, in its infinite wisdom, recommended approving long term use of the diet drug Redux. It was approved even though experts warned of two very dangerous side effects: primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH) and irreversible brain damage (neurotoxicity).
At the same time, the diet industry came up with an alarming calculation: they determined that between 20-30 percent of people taking the drug for more than one year ran the risk of contracting PPH and/or neurotoxicity. Even with this information, the FDA still went ahead and approved long term use of Redux.
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Just two months later a lawsuit was filed asking for a ban on Redux and the off-label use of Fen-Phen. Finally the FDA took notice and asked the drug manufacturers to withdraw fenfluramine and Redux from the market. Which they, immediately did. But it was too late for Rex Potts and thousands of other victims.