In January 2006, a federal advisory panel recommended that the FDA
make the weight-loss medication orlistat (Xenical) available without a
prescription. Although the FDA usually takes the panel's advice,
orlistat's approval is uncertain. Many question the drug's
effectiveness in the broader population ; others worry about its side
effects, reports the April issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch.
A new weight-loss solution would be welcome; two-thirds of adults in
the United States are overweight or obese and at risk for major health
problems and early death. But the reasons for weight problems are
complex. No pill can melt away fat or keep the pounds off. Yet for
people whose health is at risk, drug therapy may increase the odds of
Even though weight-loss drugs have a role to play in medical treatment, their long-term safety is unknown, says Harvard Women's Health Watch.
And like all medications, they can pose problems. Orlistat, which
inhibits the body's ability to take in fats, can also interfere with
the absorption of certain vitamins.
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