New Weight Loss Pill Hits the Market
The new weight loss pill Alli is now available at your local Walgreens and other pharmacies. Is it worth it? What are the side effects? How much does it cost?
This information is courtesy of Dr. Donald Hensrud at Mayoclinic.com
Is Alli the solution to your weight-loss woes? A Mayo
Clinic specialist discusses the effectiveness of Alli, an
over-the-counter weight-loss pill.
Donald Hensrud, M.D.
Another drug is available soon to aid your weight-loss efforts, but
this time you don't need a prescription. Alli (pronounced AL-eye) is
meant for overweight adults who are struggling to shed excess pounds.
With its easy access and weight-loss promises, is Alli your answer to
losing weight permanently?
Here, Donald Hensrud, M.D., a preventive medicine and nutrition
specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., answers common questions
What is Alli?
Alli is the reduced-strength version of orlistat (Xenical), a
prescription drug to treat obesity. It's approved for over-the-counter
sale to overweight adults 18 years and older. Alli is meant to be used
in conjunction with a low-calorie, low-fat diet and regular exercise.
How does Alli work?
Alli promotes weight loss by decreasing absorption of fat by the intestines, which reduces the number of calories you absorb.
Lipase, an enzyme found in the digestive tract, helps break down
dietary fat into smaller components, so it can be used or stored for
energy. Alli works by disabling lipase, which prevents the enzyme from
breaking down the fat while it's in your digestive tract. The
undigested fat continues through the intestines and is eliminated
through bowel movements.
Alli is taken with fat-containing meals, up to three times a day.
Because of how Alli works, it's recommended that you eat no more than
15 grams of fat with each meal. Eating higher amounts of fat can cause
unwanted effects, such as urgent bowel movements, diarrhea and gas with
How much weight could I lose using Alli?
Alli can help you lose weight, but the weight loss likely won't be
great — perhaps just a few pounds more than you would lose with diet
and exercise alone. Only a small number of studies have evaluated the
effectiveness of Alli. And many of the weight-loss estimates are based
on studies conducted on its prescription-strength counterpart, Xenical.
The average weight loss for prescription-strength Xenical is modest
— about 6 pounds greater than diet and exercise alone after one year.
So at half the strength, Alli could conceivably result in an average of
3 pounds lost in a year in addition to the approximately 8 pounds you
could expect to lose from diet and exercise alone.
What are the side effects?
You may experience bowel changes when taking Alli. Ads and marketing
materials refer to these changes as "treatment effects." These side
effects can include:
- Gas with an oily anal discharge
- Loose stools or diarrhea
- More frequent bowel movements
- Hard-to-control bowel movements
These bowel changes result from the undigested fat going through
your digestive system. You can limit the side effects by eating a
When shouldn't I take Alli?
You shouldn't take Alli if you:
- Are at a healthy weight
- Are taking cyclosporine
- Have had an organ transplant
- Have problems absorbing food
The drug also may pose risks for anyone who takes blood-thinning medication or has diabetes or thyroid disease.
Orlistat decreases the absorption of certain fat-soluble vitamins —
for example, vitamins A, D and E. If you're taking Alli, you need to
take a daily vitamin supplement (at a time different from when you take
Alli) to prevent potential nutrient deficiencies.
How long do I need to take Alli?
According to the manufacturer, most weight loss occurs within the
first six months. Many people who take medications to lose weight
regain the weight they lost when they stop taking the medication.
Therefore, to keep the weight off, many people continue taking
medications indefinitely along with eating a low-calorie diet and
How much does Alli cost?
A starter pack, which includes reference guides, a daily journal and
one month's supply of medication, is about $60. A refill pack with a
40-day supply of capsules is about $75.
How does Alli fit into a healthy weight-loss plan?
As you consider Alli as a weight-loss aid, make sure that you make
every effort to exercise, change your eating habits and adjust any
other lifestyle factors that have contributed to your excess weight.
Alli isn't the easy answer to weight loss and is meant only to
supplement — not replace — a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Work with your doctor to evaluate the potential benefits and risks
of Alli or any other weight-loss drugs. As a team, you can create the
most effective weight-loss plan for you.
This is scoutmom now:
Just a note - in our area, the retail price is $59 for a 90-day supply. Will I take it? I don't know. I certainly qualify. And I do eat a lower fat diet. But is it right for me??? I think for now I will stick with the tried and true reduced calorie, reduced fat, increased exercise lifestyle I have.