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The £1-A-Day Diet Drug - Don’t Be Fooled

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 The £1-A-Day Diet Drug - Don’t Be Fooled

Doctors have warned that eating healthily and exercising is the only surefire way to stay slim, not £1-A-Day diet drug that promises weight loss according to Amelia Hill of the Guardian (19 04 09).

It has been established that over-the-counter diet pills will be available as from this week in UK chemists amid warnings from experts that the cure for being overweight will never be found in a ‘wonder-drug.

The organisation GlaxoSmithKline have produced one of the two pills that will go on sale. In addition it is claimed that Ali, a half-strength version of the prescription-only Xenical - which has been granted a licence by the European commission - can cause safe weight loss of 3lb a week. The £1-a-day drug promises to cut the weight of men and women by between 5 and 10% in four months. For an 11-stone woman, this would mean shedding more than a stone - or a dress size.

Eating disorder charity Beat has urged drug company GlaxoSmithKline to ensure only adults with a BMI of 28 or more are allowed to buy its drug alli.

As a result, 6,000 pharmacists have been sent on a training course before the launch and given a BMI tape measure.

A spokeswoman for Beat, which was consulted over the decision to allow the drug to be sold over the counter, said: “We said we wanted pharmacists to check people’s BMI and look out for anybody who is purchasing other products such as laxatives and diuretics.

They have taken this advice on board. We will be keeping an eye out for any problems involving people with eating disorders.”

With three-quarters of Britons overweight, both the alli and Appesat pills are likely to be seized upon by millions of failed dieters.

But doctors and obesity experts have warned against tablets being used as a ‘quick fix’ for a problem that can also be tackled by diet and exercise.

And they question how much weight people will lose away from the carefully controlled conditions of clinical trials.

Furthermore, But in an editorial in the British Medical Journal, Gareth Williams, professor of medicine at Bristol University who carried out a trial of Alli, warned: “Possibly [because of side effects] few users will even finish their first pack of Alli, let alone buy a second, and the drug may cause only a small and transient downward blip in the otherwise inexorable climb in weight.

“Selling anti-obesity drugs over the counter will perpetuate the myth that obesity can be fixed simply by popping a pill and could further undermine efforts to promote healthy living, which is the only long-term escape from obesity.”

Williams warned that weight loss achieved in clinical trials was rarely replicated outside the laboratory.

“Dieters in these trials are highly motivated and under medical supervision,” he said. “People tempted to try Alli might be advised that taking it without medical supervision may achieve an average daily energy deficit of only 100kcal - equivalent to leaving a few French fries on a plate, eating an apple instead of ice cream, or (depending on enthusiasm and fitness) having 10 to 20 minutes of sex.”

The second diet pill going on sale this week is Appesat, which claims to achieve weight loss of just under 2lb a week. The seaweed extract, which costs £29.95 for 50 capsules, swells up and tricks the brain into thinking the stomach is full. The pills are broken down by acid in the stomach after a few hours and are flushed out of the body as waste.

Because Appesat does not enter the bloodstream, the company claims it should carry no side-effects worse than an “upset tummy”.

Indeed, Appesat has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority, the government body that vets new treatments. But even Appesat’s own consultants are cautious about the efficacy of over-the-counter weight-control drugs.

Dr Jason Halford is director of the Kissileff Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behaviour at the University of Liverpool, which receives payment from Appesat for his advice. He said: “The cure for obesity and being overweight will never be found in a pill, packet or a wonder drug.” Halford, who is also deputy chair of the Association for the Study of Obesity, said: “That can only come from enormous changes to our food and physical environment, which are going to take a long time to achieve.

“Drugs don’t necessarily deal with reasons why people become obese, which are largely psychological,” he said, pointing to Appesat research that found more than a third of those surveyed admitted thoughts of their next meal were the only thing that got them through their day at work. A fifth said they were addicted to overeating, while 44% regularly ate even when they were not hungry.

“Drugs that increase feelings of satiety and control hunger will not help these people,” he said.

According to Mintel, the market for diet plans and products is slowing. The growth rate of products with reduced fat, calories or sugar slowed dramatically last year. Sales remain in excess of £2bn.

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