Doubts on value of weight-loss drug going over-the-counter

Making the weight-loss drug orlistat available over the counter (OTC) gives 'false credibility' to the idea that obesity can be solved by popping a pill, an editorial in The Lancet argues.

Photograph: istockphoto
Photograph: istockphoto

Last week GlaxoSmithKline received European approval for orlistat 60mg to be available as a pharmacy-only medicine. 

The authors of the Lancet editorial say that increased accessibility to orlistat may not necessarily be in the best interests of the public.

‘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,’ they say.

‘Although pharmacists will discuss side-effects such as steatorrhoea, lack of medical supervision means that overuse could lead to undiagnosed nutritional deficiencies,’ they add.

tom.moberly@haymarket.com

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