Diet and exercise ignored in favour of weight loss pills

Monday 17th May, 2010

With nearly one in four adults in England classed as obese, specialist advice on dieting and weight loss is losing out to prescription anti-obesity drugs.

The number of prescriptions for weight-loss pills has risen to 1.5 million – up by 13 per cent since 2008 and 66 per cent since 2005. And the cost of these drugs to the NHS is £47 million per year.

The only recommended drug for obesity is ‘Orlistat’, commonly found under the brand name of ‘Alli’. However, many patients stop using it because of side-effects such as diarrhoea. And health care experts have also pointed out that the drug is only effective when eating a low-fat diet and regular follow-ups with a GP.

Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, told The Times that weight-loss medication should only be considered for severely obese patients when previous weight-loss attempts had failed.

“Dealing with patients who are grossly overweight is very difficult, but pills are not the solution,” said Professor Field.

“What these patients need is a balanced diet and expert dietary advice from a dietitian and often psychological support, to change their behaviour long-term. But the availability of these services is not great and doctors resort to prescribing medication under patient pressure.”



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