FDA approves first over-the-counter diet pill

Big news for the tens of millions of people trying to lose weight: starting Friday a brand new weight loss drug will be available in drugstores.

It’s the very first FDA-approved weight loss drug sold over the counter. And while it can help people shed pounds, there are some unusual side effects.

With approximately 127 million Americans overweight, drug companies have been in a race to find the magic pill that will cure obesity. This week Glaxo Smith Kline introduces the first FDA-approved over-the-counter diet drug.

It’s called Alli. It works by decreasing the amount of fat absorbed by the body. It has been on the market in a stronger prescription form since 1999 under the name “Xenical.”

ABC News Medical Editor Dr. Timothy Johnson said, “I think it’s a good idea to have it available over the counter as long as you take it the right way.”

Alli has some side effects.

Dr. Johnson said, “If you take too much of the pill or you eat too much with the pill it will cause GI disturbance: gas, diarrhea. In fact the company says when you start the pill you should do so on a weekend and stay close to home. What they mean is stay close to the bathroom, to be honest.”

The manufacturer advises that the pill should be taken in combination with a low-fat diet and exercise. The company claims that, if taken correctly, Alli can help people lose 50 percent more weight than dieting alone.

Yale University Professor Kelly Brownell said, “The typical pattern for people on weight-loss drugs is to go into it with a lot of enthusiasm. Many people don’t lose as much as they like, the get discouraged and go off the drug.”

It is not a magic pill. Taken alone Alli won’t produce dramatic weight loss, and it comes at a pretty high price — $60 for a month’s supply.

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