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Obesity pill goes over the counter

22nd January 2009

An obesity pill could soon be available over-the counter from chemists.

obesity1

Orlistat, which works by blocking the absorption of fat in the body, has been licensed to be sold in this way through pharmacies in the European Union.

However, the tablet which is aimed at adults with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 28 or more will only be offered in a dose that is lower than GPs are able to prescribe.

In the UK, the Royal College of GPs is advising anybody who wants the pill to seek advice first from their family doctor.

Manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline says that clinical trials show that by adding orlistat – which they are making commercially under the name alli – can help people lose 50% more weight than by simply dieting if it is added to a reduced calorie diet.

Community pharmacist Graham Phillips, who advises the National Obesity Forum, said he saw no problem with introducing the pill over-the-counter.

He said there would be a training pack for pharmacists, who have been used to dispensing emergency contraception in this way for some time.

However, the president of the Faculty of Public Health raised some concerns.

Professor Alan Maryon-Davis said: "My worry is that a lot of people will take these pills without proper advice and support about dieting and exercise."

The charity Weight Concern acknowledged the pill can work and the risks are minimal but were concerned that the public should be in a position to use the treatment with knowledge but that lifestyle changes must come first.

 

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