Saturday, January 28, 2006

Weight loss to go

The FDA won't let you buy the emergency contraceptive "Plan B" (the "morning after" pill) over the counter (OTC) because they aren't confident it won't be bought and used by underage girls, for whom no safety information was available, but they have no problem putting a weight-loss medication (Xenical) out there, even though its efficacy hasn't been shown.
Xenical acts by keeping about 25 percent of the fat a person consumes from being absorbed; this fat is passed from the body in stools that can be loose or oily. Other side effects include the inability to absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as D, E, K and beta carotene. (MedicineNet)
Studies have shown the drug does cause modest (5 to 6 lbs) weight loss in obese people, but the weight is put back on when the pill is stopped. GlaxoSmithKline recommends users take multivitamins to prevent deficiencies of fat soluble vitamins. Unfortunately the studies also show that only about half took the multivitamin advice.

Putting an (at best) marginally effective medication like this OTC encourages the idea that you can "take a pill" to solve a problem that is a matter of better nutrition and more exercise. But these things are secondary to the main point of selling this dog of a drug over the counter, bucks for GSK (and Roche, who makes the drug).

It's a good thing the FDA is so concerned about the possible health consequences of OTC drugs on adolescent girls, who of course have no potential for abusing a drug that might make them shit their guts out. That would be almost as much of a turn off as trying to lose weight by vomiting after eating.

This also solves another problem with not having the Plan B emergency contraception available OTC. When a woman becomes pregnant, she will have a way to control her weight.