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Weight-loss drug orlistat gets final OTC permission

By Lilian Anekwe

The European Commission has granted permission for the 60mg dose of the weight-loss drug orlistat to go on sale over the counter in pharmacies.

Orlistat will be available to all adults with a BMI of 28 kg/m2 or more, under the brand name alli.

The drug's manufacturer, GSK, said it would run a ‘comprehensive training programme' to help pharmacy staff provide appropriate advice and support.

Dr Ian Campbell, medical director of the charity Weight Concern and a GP in Nottingham, said: ‘It can work, the risks are minimal, but I don't want to see the public being exploited. They have got to use it with knowledge.

‘This plays a part in the a weight management regime - but lifestyle changes in terms of eating a better diet must come first and last.'

But Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said: 'My worry is that a lot of people will take these pills without proper advice and support about dieting and exercise.

'It's all too easy to pop a pill instead of making the lifestyle changes we need to keep our weight under control. This will only work if pharmacists can spend a lot of time giving ongoing advice.'

James Hallatt, general manager of GSK Consumer Healthcare UK, said: 'We strongly believe pharmacies are ideally placed to provide ongoing advice and support to customers who are on the alli programme.'

RCGP chair Professor Steve Field of the Royal College of GPs warned: The side effects of this drug are very unpleasant in many people. The pill should only be used with support and dietary advice.'

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