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Trotting out another weight loss pill

So the U.S. Food and Drug Administration went and approved for the first time a diet pill that can be sold over the counter — south of the border.

Orlistat has been available for some time by prescription, intended for use by people over the age of 18 on reduced calorie, low-fat diets who are also on exercise programs. In clinical trials, for every five pounds people lost through diet and exercise, people using the drug lost an extra two to three pounds.

It works by preventing your body from absorbing about a quarter of the fat you consume during a meal — about 150 to 200 calories worth —. That's right — it hands that fat a quick pass from your system and through your intestines. Loose stools are common.

About half the people on the drug experience gastrointestinal side effects. Pop one of those pills before a high fat meal and it might feel like the Allied assault on the beaches of Normandy is being replayed in your tummy.

Orlistat is available by prescription in Canada. There's been one report of a suspected adverse reaction reported through Canada's adverse drug reaction database.

The over-the-counter version of the drug — allie — is being sold by GlaxoSmithKline at a lower dosage than the prescription stuff.

At least one American consumer group is unhappy with the FDA's decision. Public Citizen calls the move "reckless." The group calls the decision "a serious, dangerous mistake in light of its marginal benefits, frequent co-existence of other diseases, common, bothersome [gastrointestinal] adverse reactions, significant inhibition of absorption of fat soluble vitamins [A, D, K and E], and problematic use in the millions of people using the blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin).”

There's a cheaper way of hastening the exit of fat and calories through your system. Sticking a finger down the throat is the choice of too many.

Not taking in those extra calories in the first place or upping your exercise levels come to mind. But neither provides instant results and both require discipline and motivation.

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