Fat-pill risks

Fat-pill risks Fat-pill risks

Is it wise to make a clinically proven weight-loss pill avaialble over the counter?

Drug maker GlaxoSmithKline last week secured Food and Drug Administration approval to sell orlistat, which blocks the absorption of fat into the body, in US pharmacies. However, health advocates say those vulnerable to eating disorders may be tempted to misuse the drug. “It could be a portal or entryway into eating disorder illnesses, especially for teenage girls,” says Doug Bunnell, a director of the US National Eating Disorders Association.

GlaxoSmithKline believes the drug, which will be sold under the brand name Alli, is an important tool in combating obesity, and will require US retailers to ensure purchasers are at least 18. The company says it will work closely with eating disorder groups to reduce the risk of misuse.

However, in Australia health officials are considering returning a similar weight-loss drug made by Roche to prescription-only status after the Australian Consumers’ Association complained that the firm was advertising the drug to teenagers.

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