Lloyds Pharmacy sell Alli (Orlistat) online

Orlistat – branded as Alli – weight loss pills are now on sale over the counter in UK pharmacies. Weight loss drugs are frequently abused, and Dr Crippen raises concerns that the pharmacist working in a bricks and mortar shop selling Alli might

not understand the realities of the drug and in any case he (or his masters) will be concentrating on the flashing pound sign

However, we were concerned to see that Lloyds Pharmacy now sells Alli pills online. While pharmacists may struggle with advising patients they meet face-to-face on Alli, selling online raises additional issues.

Would-be purchasers from Lloyds do have to complete an online questionnaire, asking them to give details such as weight and age and confirm statements such as

I am ready to adopt a reduced calorie, lower-fat diet

Unfortunately, although the questionnaires are checked by a pharmacist before the pills are posted out, people sometimes lie on such questionnaires. If someone wants – for example – to use Alli for weight loss despite a low Body Mass Index, they could easily lie about their weight. If a would-be purchaser fails to confirm tick boxes to agree with statements such as that they are willing to follow a lower-fat diet, Lloyds’ website helpfully reminds them that they must check the appropriate box in order to buy the product.

Of course, people can – and do – also mislead people that they meet face-to-face. However, a pharmacist who meets the patient may at least be better-placed to advise them: for example, if someone is visibly extremely thin, a bricks and mortar pharmacy could spot this (and measure directly, using scale etc) whereas a website could not.

Finally, for those of you who are considering taking Alli, a dietitian raises some issues you might want to consider in this comment.

UPDATE: Dr Crippen points out that Boots are also selling Alli online.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “Lloyds Pharmacy sell Alli (Orlistat) online

  1. I accept that Dr Crippen has concerns about the pharmacist but there is no particularly good reason why a pharmacist rather than (say) a pharmacist’s assistant would not be fully aware of Alli and the way it should be used.

    I don’t know if it is one of those OTC items that should only ever be dispensed in the presence of a pharmacist or if an assistant is authorised to sell it under his/her own cognisance.

    I’d be surprised if the drug catches on. There used to be some apprehension that overweight children would use it so that they could eat family meals without rowing about refusing to eat particular items and their parents would never know that they were not absorbing the fat. However, the drastic impact of eating anything other than a very low-fat meal means that such subterfuge had no chance of succeeding.

    I have to say that if Alli works for some people it is by enforcing low fat eating – but as the comment from UK Dietitian emphasises, that would depend on people using it appropriately. Sadly, there is no indication that people do use even the pharmaceutical strength as ‘training wheels’ while they adapt to a different diet: The long-term influence of orlistat on dietary intake in obese subjects with components of metabolic syndrome.

    The use of orlistat compared with placebo in a lifestyle modification programme does not appear to influence dietary intake. Subjects that chose to take orlistat after the end of the programme did not comply with dietary recommendations and this may hamper the effect of the drug.

  2. Nicola

    It is the misuse of Orlistat that is of concern here. There is nothing stopping a person with a healthy BMI lying on the form and buying it as a way of rapidly losing weight. Or a person with an existing eating disorder and low BMI doing the same. Selling them on the internet means there is no valid way of checking the information provided is accurate. People who want to lose a few pounds for an occasion will soon here of it’s availability and no doubt abuse the online system.

    I have found Orlistat to work very well for people who use it appropriately and as a learning tool, however it has been under the supervision of a GP with dietary advice and management of the side effects. If the pharmacy sells them online who will be responsible for monitoring the purchaser for vitamin deficiency and proper use.

    In my opinion this is one drug which requires face to face consultation and advice to avoid its misuse and management of possible negative effects.

  3. Thanks – it seems a fairly harsh ‘learning tool’, but I do take the point.

  4. Wow this drug is taking the country by storm all fatties alert.com.
    I personally heard about Alli in the school playground waiting for my daughter. A very excited lady I know was buzzing because this was the answer to her post-holiday weight problem. I had to ask, myself not so slim these days…. how, how does it work? She then gushed as if it was genious saying, “if the user of Alli eats fat they have to find a tiolet fast!!!” I laughed, and said, “so you darn’t eat fat,……brilliant!! why not just takes laxatives and be terrified of eating anything, you’ll be thin in no time.” Didn’t go down too well really but, all I can say is….Point made!!

    • It’s a little sweet/alarming that she thinks that she will have the option of finding a lavatory – there is no control over the sense of urgency, just leakage if excess fat has been consumed. And if excess fat has been consumed it may well be on horrible display both to you and everyone around you.

      There is a reason that this drug isn’t popular…

      And, yes, your point would be well made.

  5. Oh my word, some of the comments on this item ‘tell it like it is’ but one of the commenters is recounting an anecdote of a way around the involuntary leakage problem that will give me nightmares.

    My brother-in-law used to offer it, but he said that the main reason it worked was as an an inhibitor… if you went over a certain percentage of fat intake each day, you’d have loud, greasy, and extremely smelly bowel movements; and he’d warn you that many of them would not be controlled movements. He stopped offering it when he found out that some people were blocking up the bung hole with a tampon so they could continue to eat whatever they wanted.

    I desperately hope that this is an urban legend…

  6. This product has, now, completely grossed me out!

    • A bit more than I bargained for – in the time it took me to post my comment over on Cranky Epistles, someone posted his own, horrible, close encounter with an afflicted person in a supermarket that means there is little chance of me having a restful few hours.

      However, much as I get the sense of horror about this OTC, we do trust most people to use OTC painkillers etc. in a responsible manner – so it seems a little strange to be quite so repelled by this. For me, some of it is being shocked by the price. If you are trimming 78 calories a day which adds up to 44 days to lose a pound (via this mechanism as opposed to the low fat diet which may, tbh, be more): that adds up to around £80-£90 to lose that pound (depending on how you buy your pills and how many you take etc.).

      If you need to lose (say) 20lb, then, at those prices, you might be much better off buying some sessions with a Registered Dietitan and a personal trainer. You would even be able to afford appropriate food delivery services to help you avoid various temptations and to prepare the food for you.

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