Everybody is excited, it seems, about the new weight loss drug Alli, which will soon be sold over the counter (no prescription necessary). An FDA review panel gave it the thumbs up, saying it thought the benefits of the drug outweigh the risks to health. Alli is based on the prescription drug Orlistat, which has been on the market for a while and has been giving people diarrhea, anal leakage and other entertaining side effects for quite some time. I'm sure we'll all hear more about these side effects as word about this weight loss drug spreads.
Let's take a second look at this drug. Why did the FDA review panel give it the thumbs up? Is this drug safe and effective? Those are the two criteria upon which these decisions are supposed to be made.
Well, it turns out that Alli is just barely effective in clinical trials. Patients who took this drug lost about 1 pound a month. That's hardly any weight loss that all. That's the same amount of weight loss that you could experience simply by eating about a thousand fewer calories a week, which comes down to just a few cans of soda per week. By the way, that weight loss reversed itself as soon as people went off the drug, meaning they gained it right back. Still, the drug is being heralded as a potential blockbuster because so many Americans are desperate to lose weight and it seems that they will do almost anything to accomplish that goal.
My question is, will they tolerate soiled underwear to accomplish it? That's one of the most common side effects of this drug. People actually spotted their clothes with uncontrollable anal discharges. I don't know about you, but to me that's not worth losing a pound a month. I think losing your self respect might be more valuable than that, but I guess that's up to each person to decide. I wonder how this works when dating? Do you wear, like, diapers?
Blocking healthy fats
However, it's not the side effects that I'm most concerned about with this drug. What I'm actually concerned about is the potential harm this drug might cause. This drug
works by absorbing fat; that way, when people eat fats like those found in milk or cheese or even salad dressings, this drug binds with those fats and carries them on out of the system where they can't be digested. But at the same time, this drug also blocks all those essential fats that we need to be healthy.
Those acids include omega-3 fatty acids, which is why you're hearing about all the benefits of eating oily fish like salmon. But people who are taking this drug are inevitably blocking the absorption of these essential fatty acids as well as blocking the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins that go along with them. Some of those vitamins are extremely important to human health. The fat-soluble vitamins include vitamin E, vitamin A and vitamin D.
It is vitamin D that I am most concerned about, because right now vitamin D deficiencies are widespread across Western populations, especially those in the United States. A deficiency in vitamin D directly promotes a numbers of serious diseases including diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, schizophrenia, breast cancer, prostate cancer and even gum disease. For people who are already overfed and undernourished, taking a fat-blocking pill that will reduce the absorption of vitamin D seems like dietary insanity to me. It makes me wonder about the priorities of the FDA, too. Are they sure the benefits of this drug outweigh the risks?
Are nutritional deficiencies an acceptable side effect?
I question whether the FDA has seriously looked at the risks of further malnutrition of fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids. Maybe this decision was based on the incorrect but widely held belief in conventional medicine that diet really has no relationship to health. As amazing as it seems, there are still those in conventional medicine who believe that what you eat has nothing to do with your health or the diseases that you might eventually express. I know it sounds crazy, but there are still doctors, decision-makers and bureaucrats who believe that utterly outdated philosophy. Some may think that blocking the absorption of nutrition has no effect on the human body.
Let's face it: Essential fatty acids are named that because they are essential. Vitamin D and other fat-soluble nutrients are absolutely crucial for human health, especially the health of expectant mothers, newborns and senior citizens. These are nutrients that we cannot live healthfully without. So what could possibly be the FDA review panel's motivation in approving this drug that has almost no perceived benefit? It causes merely one pound of weight loss a month (and that's if you actually believe the clinical trials), yet it creates considerable health risks to those who take the drug. Again, those risks are widespread nutritional deficiencies that exacerbate existing deficiencies and can lead to serious degenerative disease.
The answer is the same answer that applies to most of the decisions made in conventional medicine today: A new over-the-counter weight loss drug would generate potentially billions of dollars of profit for Big Pharma. Even though this drug may not be very effective, and even though it may cause outrageous side effects like anal leakage, it will still be heavily promoted with heavy advertising. Its benefits will be exaggerated; its side effects and risks will be minimized or ignored altogether. Potentially, tens of millions of Americans will try this drug out of desperation to lose weight, and this drug won't be cheap, either. So this mad dash to a magic bullet pill could result in huge profits for the manufacturer of the drug. I believe that is the primary reason the FDA made this decision. The FDA has a long track record of defending Big Pharma at the expense of public health.
Now, perhaps the worst part of this is that consumers of this drug may feel that taking this drug gives them a license to continue to eat unhealthy foods. They will think that they no longer have to watch what they eat because this little pill absorbs all the bad stuff. They might continue to eat fried foods or unhealthy saturated animal fat products like hamburgers, cheese, milk and lots of fast food products. Their health may continue to suffer even as they think they are protecting themselves.
It seems this pill could give people the justification to make poor decisions about their nutrition, and that's another reason why I think this pill could pose a very real danger to the long-term health of consumers. That doesn't mean it won't be popular. Perhaps the blockbuster sales of this drug will spur a new industry: Diapers for adults. If you're in the diaper business, you might want to think about introducing a new line of diapers for adults who are on these fat absorbing prescriptions drugs. It might be more profitable than selling the drugs!
One thing is for sure: You can bet I won't be taking this prescription drug. I'll continue covering it, though, to help educate those who might be considering it. By the way, can you tell I'm not on the take with money from drug companies? Most of the mainstream media stories you'll hear about this drug will have an obvious pro-drug slant. That's because most of the mainstream media is heavily influenced by pharmaceutical advertising money. I'm not. I don't care if you take Alli or not. Just don't sit on my couch if you do.