Diverting a Diet Drug

How did a controversial
product become
the first weight-loss drug
to be available
without a prescription?

By Fran Hawthorne
Illustrations by Bill Sanderson

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1 "That was another big Aha! moment, because we didn't know that study existed," Burton says.

The researchers found that people who took orlistat (the generic name for Xenical) experienced a 37% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. According to the report, "the overall incidence of adverse events was similar" in the control group and the group on orlistat, although more people on orlistat experienced "mild to moderate" gastrointestinal events. (The incidence decreased as people stayed longer on the drug.) Along with the more common side effects, Xenical can interfere with the absorption of many drugs such as warfarin and cyclosporine, as well as fat-soluble vitamins. Rarely, it's been linked to acute kidney injury and liver problems. 2

The GSK team...

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