June 3, 2008 / 5:56 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-Sanofi's Acomplia linked to 5 deaths in Britain

(Adds Sanofi-Aventis comment)

LONDON, June 3 (Reuters) - Sanofi-Aventis SA’s (SASY.PA) weight-loss drug Acomplia has been linked to five deaths and 720 adverse drug reactions in Britain since its launch two years ago, according to official figures.

The drug, known generically as rimonabant, was once seen as a multibillion-dollar seller for the French company but its future has been under a cloud since a panel of U.S. experts rejected it a year ago, amid fears it may cause suicidal thoughts.

It remains on sale in Britain and other European countries, although with strengthened safety warnings.

Figures posted on the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency's (MHRA) website (here) show there was one case of suicide in the period up to May 9, 2008, and two suicide attempts.

A Sanofi spokeswoman said most of the five fatalities occurred before 2008 and the report referred to the aggregated total of adverse reactions recorded in reports received by the MHRA since 2006.

The other four deaths related to two cases of fatal heart attack, one sudden death and one case of infectious disease. The company pointed out that the deaths were seen in a population group that already had associated cardiovascular risk factors, in addition to obesity. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by David Cowell)

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