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Phenylpropanolamine (Dexatrim)

Phenylpropanolamine (Dexatrim): Phenylpropanolamine was an over-the-counter weight loss ingredient found in products like Dexatrim. It was removed from the US market in 2000 due to its association with an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke.

Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) was found in over the counter weight loss drugs and allergy medications.
Era of Discovery


Mechanism of Action

Over-the-counter weight loss ingredient

History of Use in the United States

Used as an OTC weight loss ingredient until 2000

Benefit of Weight Loss Agent or Medication

Weight loss

Possible Side Effects

Increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke

Current Regulatory Status in US

Removed from the market

Phenylpropanolamine: A Journey from Popular Over-the-Counter Drug to Banned Substance

Phenylpropanolamine, once a popular over-the-counter medication, has had a unique trajectory in its journey, ranging from widespread usage to a complete ban due to safety concerns.

Phenylpropanolamine's History and Initial FDA Approval

Phenylpropanolamine (PPA), developed in the mid-20th century, quickly became popular for two main uses: as a decongestant in cold and flu medications, and as an appetite suppressant for weight loss. Given its OTC status, it was readily available without a prescription, leading to widespread use.

Mode of Action

Phenylpropanolamine is a sympathomimetic agent, meaning it mimics the action of adrenaline in the body. In the case of weight loss, PPA would trigger the fight-or-flight response, which, among other effects, suppresses appetite. The drug also worked as a decongestant by constricting blood vessels in the nasal passages, relieving congestion symptoms.

Safety Profile and Concerns

Initially, phenylpropanolamine was viewed as a relatively safe drug, given its over-the-counter status. However, in the early 2000s, a study known as the Yale Hemorrhagic Stroke Project found a link between PPA and an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke in women. This led to an FDA public health advisory in 2000, warning about the risks associated with phenylpropanolamine. The FDA requested that all drug manufacturers discontinue products containing PPA due to the stroke risk.

Current Availability and Usage

Following the FDA advisory, phenylpropanolamine was effectively removed from the market in the United States. Many countries followed suit, banning the substance or reclassifying it as a controlled substance. Today, phenylpropanolamine is no longer available for human use in most countries, though it is sometimes still used in veterinary medicine for the treatment of urinary incontinence in dogs.

Despite its previous popularity, the history of phenylpropanolamine serves as a sobering reminder of the importance of post-marketing surveillance in ensuring drug safety. Its case underscores the significance of ongoing research and vigilance in pharmacovigilance, even for drugs that are seemingly safe and widely available.

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