The manufacturers of the popular diet pill Alli have hit back over
claims that the product is linked to liver damage and hepatitis. After
a newspaper report raised fears that the pills were causing dangerous
side effects in some people, the Federal Food and Drug Administration
announced that they would be carefully monitoring Alli use.
It came out that the FDA had received a series of alerts about adverse
health events in patients taking Alli, which suggested that the pills
might be causing problems with the liver. A spokesperson for the
organisation said, “We have received rare reports of hepatitis and
other liver-related laboratory abnormalities in people taking orlistat.
The FDA is closely monitoring this issue to determine the need for any
Alli caused a storm in April when it was approved by European
regulators for over-the-counter sale. It contains the drug Orlistat,
the active ingredient in the slimming pills Xenical
Xenical is still only available with a doctor’s prescription, but as
Alli is a lower-dose version the regulaters agreed the pills could be
sold directly to people in pharmacies. Since then, it has become one of
the best-selling medications on the UK market. In America, where it has
been sold since 2007, millions of packs are bought each year.
GlaxoSmithKline, who market the slimming pills
say that users of Orlistat can lose up to 50% more weight than they
would through diet and exercise alone. In studies it was shown that
people taking the pills for 12 weeks were 3 times more likely to lose
up to 10% of their body weight.
While it has been widely acknowledged that obesity is a growing crisis
in the Western world and action is desperately needed, critics have
argued that slimming pills lead people to look for a ‘quick fix’ for
their weight problems, rather than accepting that shedding the pounds
takes energy and dedication.
They have also questioned whether it is safe to encourage people to
take medication like Orlistat when it is not absolutely necessary, as
most medications can cause side effects.
The UK medicines regulators, the MHRA, have received 31 reports of side
effects since Alli went on sale in Britain. Since Xenical was approved
for prescription, 1252 reports have been received, 100 concerning liver
However the pharmaceutical companies have remained adamant that the
best-selling products are safe. In a statement, a spokeperson for Alli
said that “when a product is used by as many people as have used alli
over the last three years its fair to assume a small percentage of the
population could, as with any drug, have an adverse reaction to using
They added, "But we're happy and confident in our safety and research
procedures" she continued, "and we believe orlistat still has a great
deal to offer 99.99% of its users".