Continued from page 1

Meridia use in the U.S. has been steadily declining in recent years, according to prescription data firm IMS Health. About 283,000 prescriptions for it were filled last year, just more than half the number of prescriptions in 2005.

Abbott doesn’t actively promote Meridia in the U.S., according to Davies. The company expects global sales this year to be less than $100 million, including less than $30 million in the U.S., he said.

With U.S. obesity rates nearing 35 percent of the adult population, doctors and patients say new pharmaceutical treatments are needed.

But weight loss drugs have long been plagued by negative side effects _ particularly heart problems. In the same year Meridia was approved, Wyeth’s diet drug combination, fen-phen, was pulled off the market because of links to heart-valve damage and lung problems.

The FDA is reviewing a new generation of diet pills. On Thursday, the same FDA panel will review a new weight loss pill from Arena Pharmaceuticals. Studies of the drug, lorcaserin, have been free of the heart problems seen with older drugs.