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Over-the-Counter Diet Drug, Alli, Approved

What I’ve been warning about since 2005 has finally happened: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a version of GlaxoSmithKline’s diet drug orlistat (Xenical) to be sold over-the-counter. This non-prescription version, being sold under the name “alli,” is expected to hit store shelves in June and sell for about $50 for 90-capsule bottle.

Financial experts say alli could reap annual sales in excess of $300 million.

The drug reportedly increases weight loss by 50 percent by blocking about 25 percent of dietary fat from being absorbed by the intestines when you eat. However, even before it’s even hit the market, there are known side effects that both the FDA and GlaxoSmithKline warn about:

  • A possible “change in bowel habits, which may include loose stools”
  • “Having an urgent need to use the bathroom” if you eat too much fat while taking the drug
  • A reduced absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and beta-carotene, so much so that users are advised to take a multivitamin at bedtime to make up for this

Further, Xenical, after which alli is modeled, has been found to cause abnormal cell growth in the lining of the colon, an early cancer indicator, along with kidney stones.

Blocking fat absorption to lose weight could have any number of unknown consequences, and taking any pill to lose weight is simply not the panacea everyone’s hoping for. What is, however, is eating foods for your nutritional type, setting aside time to exercise regularly, and overcoming any emotional challenges that may be contributing to weight gain. 

USA Today February 8, 2007