Weight loss pills investigated as cause of liver failure

26 September 2011

One of the most popular weight loss drugs in the UK is under scrutiny after suspicions arose that it may be linked to liver failure.

The drug in question, orlistat, has been available since 1998 and stops the intestines absorbing fat so it is excreted instead.

Officials from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have released information that showed there have been at least four known cases of "serious liver toxicity" as a result of the drug and one of them resulted in death.

Orlistat is widely available in an over-the-counter 60mg form, known as Alli, and a prescription-only 120mg dose, marketed as Xenical. It accounted for 74 per cent of the total weight loss drugs sold or administered in 2009.

The drug has already been under scrutiny once in a Europe-wide campaign but the EMA has launched another investigation into its links with the serious effects of liver failure.

In a statement, the EMA said: "[We have started] a review of orlistat-containing anti-obesity medicines, to determine whether the very rare cases of hepatic injury have an impact on their benefit-risk profile and conditions of use."

There are many weight loss drugs available over the counter, including Alli, Meridia and Bontril.

Posted by Edward Bartel

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