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OTC obesity drug orlistat 'may do more harm than good'

By Lilian Anekwe

The decision to make the obesity drug orlistat available over the counter maybe expensive and damaging to public health in the long term, according to a Lancet editorial.

The Lancet editorial echoes the warnings in Pulse last week that the OTC availability of orlistat sent a mixed message to the public that obesity could be cured by popping a pill a not bothering to exercise or maintain a healthy diet.

The backlash came after the decision by the European Commission to approve a 60mg dose of orlistat, under the brand name Alli, to be sold in pharmacists. Alli is already available in the US and Australia.

The editorial, published this week, claims orlistat has a limited effect in reducing weight – the average weight loss per year is 2.5kg – and lack of medical supervision could lead to under diagnosed nutritional deficiencies.

‘Making this drug available OTC will add false credibility to the notion that there is an easy pill-popping solution to obesity rather than long-term lifestyle changes—part of the holistic approach necessary in the management of all obese patients.

‘Lack of a comprehensive strategy, with subsequent monitoring, of OTC sales means that once a drug is approved to be sold, the effects on the public and individuals are not known.

‘With a growing trend to approve OTC medicines for the self-management of chronic conditions, it is crucial that OTC use is better understood. Evidence is urgently needed to show that OTC decisions are made in the best interests of the public.'

Orlistat will soon go on sale OTC Orlistat will soon go on sale OTC

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