Last Updated on February 8, 2024
Orlistat is a weight loss medication that can help individuals lose weight when taken in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise regime. While it used to only be available on prescription, it is now possible to buy orlistat over the counter in the UK.
However, it is important to note that orlistat should not be taken by everyone. It is only recommended for those who have a BMI of 28 or above and have struggled to lose weight through other methods. It is also not suitable for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or those who have malabsorption syndrome.
If you meet the criteria for taking orlistat and want to purchase it over the counter in the UK, there are several options available. It can be found in most pharmacies and supermarkets, including Boots and Tesco. However, it is important to speak to a pharmacist before purchasing to ensure that it is safe for you to take and to receive advice on dosage and potential side effects.
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What is orlistat?
Orlistat inhibits fat digestion and is used to treat obesity. It is not usually absorbed into the body from the intestines, so there are few serious side effects. Here you can read all you need to know about orlistat, its side effects and how to use it.
How does orlistat work?
After absorbing dietary fats, the stomach and pancreas release specific lipolytic enzymes called lipases. The movement of the muscle walls of the digestive tract mixes the food pulp with the enzyme-containing digestive juice. The lipases break down dietary fats into their components (glycerol and fatty acids), which can then be absorbed through the intestinal wall.
Orlistat is a so-called lipase inhibitor: it blocks the lipases in the stomach and small intestine. Without enzymatic cleavage, however, dietary fats cannot enter the bloodstream and are instead excreted in the stool. Since fat is the nutrient with the highest caloric density (about 39 kilojoules per gram or 9.3 kilocalories per gram of fat), inhibiting the digestion of fat can effectively reduce calorie intake. This is particularly useful for obese people to help them lose weight by changing their diet.
After taking orlistat, the active ingredient starts to work immediately in the stomach and intestines. It is only absorbed into the blood in trace amounts through the intestines and is largely unchanged when it leaves the intestines.
When is orlistat used?
Orlistat is used in combination with a reduced-calorie diet in patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. In patients with existing risk factors, lipase is given at a BMI of 28 or higher. Treatment should be discontinued if at least five per cent of the initial weight has been lost within twelve weeks of starting treatment.
How orlistat is used?
Orlistat is used in the form of capsules or chewable tablets. Each chewable tablet or capsule containing up to 120 milligrams of orlistat is taken immediately before, during or up to one hour after a large meal. It should only be taken if the meal contains fats or oils.
What are the side effects of orlistat?
During treatment, it comes with more than one in ten patients on orlistat side effects such as, fatty stools, bloating with defecation, tenesmus and liquid stools.
More side effects with every tenth to hundredth treated are about fatigue, menstrual cramps, anxiety, urinary tract infection, pain in the rectum (rectal), fecal incontinence, tooth and gum problems.
What should I watch for while taking orlistat?
The concomitant use of ciclosporin should be monitored by a doctor because blood levels of the immunosuppressant may be lowered by the fat inhibitor. Ciclosporin is used in chronic inflammatory bowel disease, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and organ transplantation.
The coagulation level (INR or Quick-value) should be closely monitored when using oral anticoagulants.
Because fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K) and beta-carotene (provitamin A) are added dissolved in dietary fat, taking orlistat may lead to a corresponding vitamin deficiency. Patients should therefore pay particular attention to a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. Vitamin supplements may also be taken if necessary.
Patients taking HIV medicines, antidepressants or antipsychotics (for mental disorders) should discuss the use of Orlistat with a doctor first. There are reports that the effect of these drugs appears to be affected by lipase.
No data are available on the use of Orlistat during pregnancy. Therefore, pregnant women should only use lipase under medical supervision.
Orlistat should not be used during breastfeeding as it is not known whether it is excreted in human milk.
Orlistat has not been studied in children under 18 years of age, the elderly, or people with liver or kidney disease, and should not be used in these patients.
How to obtain drugs orlistat?
Chewable tablets and capsules containing up to 60 milligrams of orlistat per dose are available over the counter from pharmacies. Higher doses are available, but only on prescription.
How long has orlistat been on the market?
The active ingredient is a chemically modified derivative of lipstatin produced by certain actinobacteria. The chemical modification has resulted in increased stability without loss of efficacy.
For weight loss in conjunction with a low-calorie, low-fat diet, orlistat is offered in Europe as 120 mg capsules under the brand name Xenical and as 60 mg capsules under the brand name alli. Alli was licenced in January 2009 and is accessible without a prescription with the help of a chemist, in contrast to Xenical, which has been approved since 1998 and is exclusively available via prescription. A drug containing orlistat was first marketed in Germany in 1998 by the pharmaceutical company Roche. In 2007, the prescription requirement for low-dose orlistat was lifted in the USA, and in 2009 the same happened in the European Union. Generic versions of orlistat are now available on the UK market.