This week the Food and Drug Administration approved orlistat for over-the-counter sales.  Orlistat is currently available as the prescription medicine Xenical, and will be marketed over-the-counter under the brand name alli.

The details of the announcement, and reactions by various weight loss experts are detailed in this interesting LA Times article.

Orlistat works by blocking the absorption of fat from the intestine into the blood stream, thereby causing fewer of the calories of each meal to stay in the body.  Unfortunately, this yields only a modest weight loss, and only when used in conjunction with diet and exercise.  This is why, as the article reports, Xenical has not sold very well.

The side effects are also annoying.  Since orlistat blocks fat absorption, it causes greasy stools and diarrhea.  (That’s almost worse than lavender oil!)

GlaxoSmithKline hopes that making alli available over the counter will increase the number of patients who use it.  I hope my patients just eat sensibly and exercise.

Tangential Miscellany:

The Pedometer Project started two weeks ago, and the participants have already walked a total of over a million steps!  If you’d like to join, or if you don’t want to participate in the contest but would just like a pedometer, let me know.