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"U.S. battle of the bulge gets new weapon"

Globe and Mail

Source: Globe and Mail

Published: 08 Feb 2022

Category: Pharmaceutical

Rating: (2 stars)

what they said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

WASHINGTON - The U.S. battle against obesity has a new weapon - the first government-approved diet pill that can be bought without a prescription.
Intended only for people 18 and older, the drug, called alli, is a reduced-strength version of the prescription diet drug Xenical.
The Food and Drug Administration announced its on Wednesday approval of sales of the lower-dose drug without a prescription, although officials stressed that it needs to be used in combination with a diet and exercise program.

The original article can found in the Media Doctor archives.

how did it rate? (more information)

Criteria Rating
Total Score 4 of 10
Availability of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)
Novelty of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Disease Mongering Satisfactory (?)
Treatment Options Not Satisfactory (?)
Costs of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)
Evidence Not Satisfactory (?)
Quantification of Benefits of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)
Harms of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Sources of Information Satisfactory (?)
Relies on Press Release Not Applicable
Quantification of Harms of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)

what we said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

The history of prescription drugs for weight-loss is not exactly pretty and now we are seeing those previously prescription-only tablets going over the counter. This American article had not been put into a Canadian context so unfortunately there is no information on the drug's availability or cost in Canada.

While it would be great if there was an easily taken, cheap and effective treatment to help people lose weight, we don't learn if this new OTC version of orlistat has any of these properties, seeing that there is not very much information beyond opinion here. While the article mentioned some side effects (mostly gastrointestinal) the action of the drug, in blocking the absorption of fat, leads to a much unpleasant effects, including the increased risk of oily spotting and fecal incontinence; As well there is a concern of malnutrition and in clinical trials more patients taking orlistat required vitamin A and D supplementation than patients on placebo.

What is most useful in stories like these, is to know if the drug in question is tested against the alternatives diet and exercise (it wasn't), so we will never really know how it works against the standard non-drug treatments.

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