The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics
In Brief: Orlistat OTC for Weight Loss
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The FDA has approved over-the-counter (OTC) sale of the weight-loss drug orlistat (Xenical – Roche)1 as alli (GlaxoSmithKline), to be used in combination with a reduced-calorie, low-fat diet. Orlistat binds to gastric and pancreatic lipases, preventing absorption of about 30% of dietary fat with the 120-mg prescription dose, and 25% with the 60-mg OTC dose. A 16-week controlled trial of the OTC dose (60 mg 3 times daily with meals) in overweight, not obese, patients (average BMI 26.8) on a reduced-calorie, low-fat diet found that patients taking the drug lost 1.15 kg more than those taking placebo.2

Orlistat causes flatulence with oily spotting, loose stools, fecal urgency and occasional incontinence in 20-40% of patients on a low-fat diet; these effects presumably would be more frequent and more severe with a higher fat intake or self-prescription of higher-thanrecommended ... more      

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