The only FDA approved OTC weight loss pill so far is Alli. Its basic component is orlistat. It was already in the market as prescription drug called xenical. Now FDA has approved the 50% strength version of this xenical to be sold as OTC drug. Its chemical name is Tetrahydrolipstatin.
There may be many brands available in the market, but only this drug containing orlistat has acquired the approval of FDA. At the same time, there is no magic pill available which would decrease the weight overnight. Each medication requires a combination programme of healthy diet, proper physical exercise along with a weight loss pill, to achieve desired effects.
Generally people who wish to lose weight, make a resolve to stick to a strict diet and rigorous physical regimen. But usually they found that it is not all that easy to maintain. So, counting calories, going to the gym etc soon go off the track. That’s when a weight loss product comes handy.
Mode of action:
The major component of this product is orlistat. Orlistat is derived from lipstatin. This is natural inhibitor of pancreatic lipases. So orlistat is known to inhibit enzyme lipase. This enzyme acts on the triglycerides, breaking them down in the intestine. Then this processed fat is absorbed in the body. But when this enzyme is inhibited, then the fat components of food are neither broken down nor absorbed and are just excreted undigested. So, by lipase inhibition, about one fourth of the fat intake of the body is stopped from being absorbed by this product. Thus calorie intake is reduced.
If the calories present in a single gram of fat are compared with same quantity of carbohydrate or protein, then the fat contains more than double the number of calories than carbohydrate or protein.
So if a healthy diet of low fat content is taken along with this FDA approved weight loss pill, then the calorie intake is reduced considerably. And this would naturally result in weight loss. This product is being marketed as not just weight loss pill, but as a complete programme for weight loss.
A six-month clinical trial of orlistat was conducted on obese people. On an average, they were shown to reduce 5.3 to 6.2 lbs more than the placebo cases. Orlistat is recommended to use for not more than 6 months at a time. But when it is sold as an OTC drug, then it would be difficult to monitor its use.
This lipase inhibitor in this FDA approved weight loss pill acts only till it is in use. When it is discontinued, its effect is over and some studies even showed that some patients gradually gained weight after orlistat was stopped. In such cases around 35% of the lost weight was regained.
Side effects of orlistat:
Orlistat may show some embarrassing side effects. This being a lipase inhibitor, it stops fat from being absorbed in the body. So it is recommended that this FDA approved weight loss pill should be accompanied with a low fat diet. In case if food with higher fat content is consumed along with orlistat, then the unabsorbed excess fat just comes out. Such fatty foods are invariably consumed once in a while (even while dieting). So it becomes quite difficult to avoid this side effect.
Some other side effects of orlistat are gas, incontinence, oily spotting etc.
Low fat diet and exercise is insisted upon while taking the FDA approved weight loss pill. So the actual action or the benefits of the drug alone are questionable.
The prescribed version of the same drug was recommended only for the people whose obesity posed a health risk. But anyone can avail of this OTC version of the same drug. So it is necessary to take the side effects into consideration.
Because of the uncomfortable and embarrassing side effects, many are of the opinion that sticking to a healthy low fat diet and exercise is better than its side effects.
It is advisable not to use orlistat in cases of pregnancy and breast feeding, reduced gall bladder function, in impaired liver or pancreatic functions, hypersensitivity to orlistat etc.