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Circulation. 1999 Aug 24;100(8):869-75.

Aminorex, fenfluramine, and chlorphentermine are serotonin transporter substrates. Implications for primary pulmonary hypertension.

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  • 1Clinical Psychopharmacology Section, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Intramural Research Program, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, Md, USA.



Coadministration of phentermine and fenfluramine (phen/fen) effectively treats obesity and possibly addictive disorders. The association of fenfluramine and certain other anorexic agents with serious side effects, such as cardiac valvulopathy and primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH), limits the clinical utility of these drugs. Development of new medications that produce neurochemical effects like phen/fen without causing unwanted side effects would be a significant therapeutic breakthrough.


We tested the hypothesis that fenfluramine (and other anorexic agents) might increase the risk of PPH through interactions with serotonin (5-HT) transporters. Because 5-HT transporter proteins in the lung and brain are identical, we examined, in rat brain, the effects of selected drugs on 5-HT efflux in vivo and monoamine transporters in vitro as a generalized index of transporter function. Our data show that drugs known or suspected to increase the risk of PPH (eg, aminorex, fenfluramine, and chlorphentermine) are 5-HT transporter substrates, whereas drugs that have not been shown to increase the risk of PPH are less potent in this regard.


We speculate that medications that are 5-HT transporter substrates get translocated into pulmonary cells where, depending on the degree of drug retention, their intrinsic drug toxicity, and individual susceptibility, PPH could develop as a response to high levels of these drugs or metabolites. Emerging evidence suggests that it is possible to develop transporter substrates devoid of adverse side effects. Such medications could have therapeutic application in the management of obesity, drug dependence, depression, and other disorders.

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