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Xenical – Orlistat – Alli:  all versions of the same drug but do they really work?  And is the all new new Alli weight-loss drug worth it?

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Xenical – Orlistat – AlliAll versions of the same drug but do they really work?  While Alli is now available in stores, it only comes in a much lower dose of one-half of prescription fat-blocking drug Xenical also known as orlistat, under the marketed brand name Alli. Alli only offers modest results and can cause embarrassing side effects. 
 

If it’s over the counter weight loss pills you’re after, you can now buy Alli, also know by its ingredient name orlistat.  Orlistat is a fat-blocking drug of limited effectiveness, now available in stores without a prescription.  Recently the Food and Drug Administration gave Orlistat’s manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline the approval to sell an over-the-counter version of the drug under the brand name AlliHowever, Alli is only half the dose of prescription orlistat, Xenical, which has been on the market since 1999.

With the recent FDA approval, GlaxoSmithKline Alli recent massive marketing will likely capture a chunk of the $41 billion that Americans spend on weight-loss products each year. The company says Alli, which recenly hit store shelves, will cost $1.80 per day.  But if a pill that limits your body’s ability to absorb fat from food seems a little too good to be true, you’re on to something. Alli, the drug does have embarassing if not uncomfortable drawbacks.

To begin with, Xenical, the prescription version of Alli at twice the dose, hasn’t lived up to its promise; some doctors have found it to offer marginal benefit in clinical practice. At half the prescription strength, Alli is likely to be even less effective. Data presented to the FDA suggest that Alli works best in those who are very overweight, that it must be used in conjunction with a low-fat, reduced-calorie diet, and that results are modest.  In Alli’s clinical trials, severely overweight subjects who took the drug for six months lost about 5 pounds more than those taking a placebo. In a separate four-month Alli trial, moderately overweight people lost about 2 1/2 pounds more than the control group. Benefits are also likely to be short-lived. Alli is marketed for short-term use only, and follow-up suggests that people start to regain weight once they stop taking it.

Embarrassing side effects

Alli or Orlistat is notorious for what one FDA advisory panel member termed “the underwear problem.” Unabsorbed fat can cause intestinal side effects such as fatty stools, oily spotting, flatulence with discharge, an urgent need to defecate, and frequent bowel movements.

Evidence suggests that the drug can also impede the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Users need to take a multivitamin daily at least two hours before or after taking orlistat, though in actual-use studies only about half managed to do so. Orlistat should not be used by those taking the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin). People on diabetes medications should use it only under a doctor’s supervision.

The OTC Alli diet pill packaging includes a guide to healthful eating with Alli starter packs.  But while the healthful eating advice might be worth taking, are the Alli pills worth the price?

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