The first over-the-counter diet pill on sale in UK chemists
The release of Alli, the first non-prescription diet pill, comes amid warnings from doctors that the cure for being overweight ‘will never be found in a wonder drug’.
The pill is a half-strength version of the prescription-only Xenical – and can cause safe weight loss of 3lb a week. The £1-a-day pill promises to cut the weight of men and women by between 5 and 10% in four months. This could help an 11 stone woman shed a stone.
The manufacturers claim that an Alli tablet with every meal can cause 50% more weight loss than willpower or traditional diet methods. But is to be used alongside a sensible eating plan together with exercise.
The primary ingredient of Alli is orlistat, which cuts down the fat absorbed by the body by 25%. Undigested, this fat passes through the body causing what Glaxo describes as ‘an urgent need to go to the bathroom’.
But Gareth Williams, professor of medicine at Bristol University who carried out a trial of Alli, warned that weight loss achieved in clinical trials was rarely replicated outside the laboratory where people were not motivated and monitored constantly by doctors.
‘Possibly few users will even finish their first pack of Alli, let alone buy a second, and the drug may cause only a small and transient downward blip,’ he said. ‘Selling anti-obesity drugs over the counter will also perpetuate the myth that obesity can be fixed simply by popping a pill and undermine efforts to promote healthy living.’
The second diet pill going on sale this week has drawn similar criticism. Appesat, which claims to achieve weight loss of just under 2lb a week is a seaweed extract, which costs £29.95 for 50 capsules and swells up and tricks the brain into thinking the stomach is full.
Dr Jason Halford who is the director of the Study of Human Ingestive Behaviour at the University of Liverpool, said of those in the drug’s trial still said they were addicted to overeating, while 44% regularly ate even when they were not hungry.
‘Drugs that increase feelings of satiety and control hunger will not help such people,’ he said. ‘Drugs don’t necessarily deal with reasons why people become obese, which are largely psychological.’