Patients prescribed the anti-obesity drug Acomplia have been urged to stop taking it, after the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis stopped its sale over concerns it could lead to psychiatric disorders. At least 50 local patients have been prescribed the drug in public hospitals. Many more private patients may have been taking it. 'The Department of Health today received notification from the importer to halt the sales and import of a drug named Acomplia,' a department spokesman said yesterday. A total of 21,800 boxes of Acomplia, each containing 28 capsules, have been imported since registration. About 9,000 boxes were sold. The department did not buy any Acomplia. 'The department calls on patients who are taking the drug to consult their doctors about their health condition if necessary,' the spokesman added. A spokesman for the Hospital Authority said more than 50 patients had been prescribed the drug. The patients would be contacted and alternative medicine would be prescribed, the spokesman said. The authority was seeking further details from Sanofi-Aventis after it received the notification of sale suspension. 'The drug concerned is not stocked. However, some public hospital doctors have been prescribing it in the format of drug samples' to patients, the spokesman said. Both agencies said there had been no reports of patients feeling unwell after taking the drug. Sanofi-Aventis' decision to stop sales of Acomplia follows a recommendation from the London-based European Medicines Agency. The agency said on Thursday that a study had found those taking Acomplia were at double the risk of developing psychiatric disorders than those taking a placebo. Five patients among 36,000 on a trial of the drug committed suicide between June and August, compared to one suicide among those patients taking the placebo. William Chui Chun-ming, education director of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists, said many more private patients could have been prescribed the drug. 'Private doctors have the responsibility to inform the patients about this issue. A lot of patients may already have taken the drugs,' he said.