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Modest Results From Weight Loss Drugs

Average Loss Is 6 to 10 Pounds in People Taking Prescription Weight Loss Drugs

Obesity Researcher Targets Alli

Padwal says the drugs have a place in the management of obesity as long as patients have realistic expectations about what they can achieve with them.

But in an editorial accompanying the analysis, obesity researcher Gareth Williams, PhD, argues against the use of weight loss drugs without medical supervision.

Williams says the recent introduction of a lower-dose version of Xenical -- sold over-the-counter as Alli in the United States -- is more about marketing than sound medicine.

"Selling anti-obesity drugs over the counter will perpetuate the myth that obesity can be fixed simply by popping a pill and could further undermine the efforts to promote healthy living, which is the only long-term escape from obesity," he writes.

In an interview with WebMD, Williams charges that the main beneficiary of the new over-the-counter pill will be Alli manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline.

"I'm afraid I regard this as a rather cynical money-making enterprise on their part," he says. Taking a weight loss pill without medical supervision is likely to distract from the message that people have to make significant lifestyle changes to achieve meaningful weight loss."

A spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline tells WebMD that Alli is intended for use only by people who are willing to make these lifestyle changes.

"Alli is neither a magic pill nor a quick-fix solution, and we have certainly never marketed it that way," says Malesia Dunn. "The way this product has been marketed from day one has been to educate the consumer about the importance of making lifestyle changes."

Acomplia manufacturer Sanofi-Aventis also defended its weight loss drug in a statement issued Thursday.

"Although the article describes the weight loss achieved ... as 'modest,' it does recognize that 'even modest amounts of weight loss (5-10%) are beneficial,' particularly in patients at risk for developing type 2 diabetes," company spokeswoman Julissa Viana notes.

A spokeswoman for Meridia manufacturer Abbott voices a similar sentiment.

"Clinical studies demonstrate that losing and maintaining weight loss of 5%-10% significantly reduces serious health risks of obesity like diabetes and cardiovascular disease," she tells WebMD. "When combined with diet and exercise, Meridia can achieve 5%-10% weight loss."

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