New diet pill requires no prescription


Dieters received a new tool to help shed extra pounds – the first government-approved diet pill that can be bought without a prescription.

The drug, Alli, was developed for people 18 and older. It is a reduced-strength version of prescription diet aid Orlistat.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of Alli (pronounced AL-eye) without a prescription on Feb. 7, but it stressed that the drug should be paired with a healthy diet and exercise routine.

Dr. Charles Ganley, the FDA’s director of nonprescription products, said the pill alone is unlikely to produce the results dieters want.

In trials, Ganley said people taking Orlistat lost 2-3 pounds more than those using only diet and exercise.

Orlistat trials show it blocks the absorption of about one-quarter (about 150-200 calories) of the fat consumed in a meal. The fat then passes out of the body by stools. However, almost half of the patients who participated in the trials experienced gastrointestinal side effects.

Alli is said to produce similar results as full-strength Orlistat, but results will be less significant and take place over a longer period of time.

GlaxoSmithKline will sell the drug, which is expected to be in stores by summer. The final price has not been set, but estimates put the cost at $1-$2 per day.

GSK Consumer Healthcare, which will market the new pill, said it chose the name Alli to demonstrate its partnership with consumers in their weight-loss efforts.

Ashley Jones, junior in elementary education, said she thinks diet pills are a joke, but also said she took Trimspa during her first two years at college because of a suggestion by her dance coach to the entire dance squad.

“If you plan out your meals and exercise, then you’ll lose the weight,” she said. “Diet pills aren’t going to make or break you.”

The pharmacy department staff at Walgreens, 325 Bluemont Ave., said the store probably will sell Alli when it is released this summer.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, named the following items one should remember when considering the use of Alli:

• Diet and exercise still are the most effective methods of weight loss.

• GSK and the FDA stress that Alli will not work alone.

• There are negative side effects.

• A low-fat diet will reduce side effects, but a high-fat diet

will do the opposite.

• Alli is not a miracle drug. Dieters still have to work for weight loss.

• Do not take Alli if you have had an organ transplant. There could be a reaction with an anti-rejection medication.

• If you are diabetic, have a thyroid condition or are on blood thinners, talk to your doctor before taking this medication.

• Weight loss plateaus after six months, so expect only modest weight loss.