Orlistat (Xenical) helps people lose weight by blocking fat absorption in the intestines. Most patients lose about 15 pounds in a year. but often suffer side effects, such as oily stools, abdominal cramping and diarrhea. Also, the drug cost more than $100 per month and is
seldom covered by medical insurance.
GlaxoSmithKline has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow them to sell a low-dose version of Xenical over-the-counter (60 versus 120 milligrams. Xenical isn't a magic bullet against obesity, but it can boost weight loss by 50 percent in people who watch what they eat and exercise.
The drug produces only mild side effects in some people, which support the request to reclassify Xenical. The price of the drug will plummet if the FDA approves their application. It might be released as early as summer 2006. The benefits of a low dose Xenical may be less than the 120-milligram dose sold by prescription.