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
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.