Friday, February 9, 2007

Something Stinks

I have a friend named Ray whose doctor gave him a prescription for a new drug a few years ago--the drug was Xenical.

I won't repeat them here because they're really gross, but Ray regaled me with stories about the two weeks he spent taking Xenical before he finally decided that ship just wasn't going to sail. I won't repeat them here but they involved the words "oily discharge."


Fast-forward a few years and we have GlaxoSmithKline announcing the release of Alli (pronounced like "ally"), a half-strength version of Xenical (orlistat) that will soon be coming to an over-the-counter drugstore shelf near you. It's being touted as the first FDA-approved diet pill to be sold over the counter in the USA and will cost "less than $2 a day."

Basically, what the drug does is block the digestion of dietary fat and if that fat isn't getting digested, where's it gonna go? Well, it has to come out as its own oily self, doesn't it?


And the resultant weight loss, the makers admit, is "modest"--I'd call a six-pound weight loss in a 12-month period more like "miniscule." And that's six pounds when alli is combined with a "sensible diet and exercise program."

The insanity of it all is truly astounding. Just as science is grudgingly acknowledging that it's simple carbs--not dietary fat--that is the major player in obesity, the FDA is rushing out an anti-fat drug whose primary efficacy is to help folks on low-fat diets stick to their low-fat eating in order to prevent having the drug's side effects.

I have to wonder if the reason that Alli, which has been in the works for some time, was finally approved for OTC use is because somebody, somewhere figured out that the low-fat era is soon going to be ending. If people stop vilifying fat, a drug like Alli would have no commercial value. So GlaxoSmithKline can make their billions before the low-fat bubble bursts.

Okay, so maybe that's a cynical view of the FDA and Big Drug Business, but there it is.

Update: For whatever it's worth, here's an interesting link about a doctor who says alli is not only ineffective but dangerous.

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