Xenical (orlistat) is a drug that is described by its manufacturer, Roche, as the “fat controller”. Roche is not trying to muscle in on the magical world of children’s stories, but is attempting a “magic bullet” approach to weight control, presumably for those built like Thomas the Tank.

The approach is simple enough. If you’re dangerously obese, just take Xenical, radically change your diet from a high fat one to one rich in fruit and vegetables, and hey presto!, you’ll lose weight. Proof positive that the drug works!

Of course, such a powerful drug with proven benefits doesn’t come without some side effects. Most of them are gastrointestinal, and socially embarrassing, such as flatus discharge, which is medical speak for breaking wind with interest, “oily evacuations” and increased defecation.

But the problems don’t end there. You could also develop tooth disorder, upper and lower respiratory infection, influenza, headache, menstrual irregularity, anxiety, fatigue and urinary tract infection.

One worry is that Xenical may not be tolerated if the patient is also taking an anti diabetic drug. As many obese people are also diabetics, this could prove to be a major problem, and one that needs to be monitored carefully by your GP.

Roche is very exact about who should be prescribed Xenical. It should be given only to those who’ve tried to diet and who’ve failed to lose more than 2.5 kg over four weeks, and treatment should be stopped if the patient doesn’t reduce his or her weight by over 5 per cent in a 12 week treatment period.

If all this puts you off, you could just try instead the diet recommended by Roche to accompany the drug treatment. All those Thomas the Tanks might just become the Little Trains that Could. .

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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