Question

Weight Loss Strategies

What over-the-counter medicines are available to help me lose weight?

A Answers (2)

  • AStacy Wiegman, PharmD, Pharmacy, answered

    There is only one effective over-the-counter (OTC) medicine to help you lose weight; Orlistat (Alli). However, you should know that the FDA is investigating reports of liver injury occurring with Orlistat. Lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy low-calorie diet and exercising regularly, are important in helping you achieve and maintain weight loss.

    There are many OTC products on the market that advertise successful weight loss. Unfortunitely, few have reliable evidence to support claims of efficacy or safety. This includes chitosan, chromium, green tea extract and hoodia. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is listed as possibly effective and possibly safe. Other products are unsafe or possibly unsafe: country mallow, heart-leaf and ephedra are considered unsafe and banned in the US. Bitter orange is listed as possibly unsafe.

  • There are several over-the-counter medications that claim to help people lose weight. However, the only one shown to be effective thus far is Alli. This medication works by reducing absorption of dietary fat in the intestines. Side effects include loose stools, oily spotting, and a possible link to rare but serious liver injury. On average, people taking Alli lose 3 to 5 pounds per year in addition to weight loss that can be expected from diet and exercise. It is recommended that you discuss with your physician any plans to take over-the-counter weight-loss supplements.
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