All About Alli, the Weight Loss Pill (cont.)

"They are about 20% fewer," he tells WebMD.

If Alli blocks fat so well, it may also block the absorption of important vitamins and minerals, critics allege.

"Any low-calorie diet should be accompanied by a multivitamin," Foster says. "The behavioral nuance here is that you don't want to take the vitamin at the same time as you take Alli." He recommends taking the vitamin at bedtime to avoid any depletion of its contents.

Some critics think it may be better to avoid taking the pill at all, saying it's not necessary.

"There are demonstrable short-term risks and no possibility of long-term benefit," points out Sidney Wolfe, MD, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group in Washington, D.C.

If you really want to lose weight, he says the answer is not as sleek and sexy as taking a pill to augment your efforts. "You need to make a mild change in how much you eat and a mild change on how much you exercise, If you walk 2 miles more and eat 300 calories less per day, you will lose a pound a week or one-half a pound a week. It's slow but it works and has no risks."

Read the Fine Print

Despite its detractors, and even though it's not being billed as a magic bullet, many consumers may see it as one anyway.

"There are always going to be some people who won't read beyond the headlines, who so much want a miracle that they will believe this is one when its not," says Arthur Frank, MD, the medical director of the George Washington University Weight Management Program in Washington, DC.

If a person does choose to try Alli, they can't be passive about it, he says. "You really have to pay attention," Frank tells WebMD.

"There are drugs that you can use and be totally passive about, such as blood pressure or cholesterol medications, but you can't do that with Alli," he says.

"You have to be careless to use Alli incorrectly, but some people are careless," he says. Still, "if you are reasonably careful, it should be reasonably effective."

Published June 13, 2007.


SOURCES: Gary Foster, MD, director, Center of Obesity Research and Education, Temple University, Philadelphia. Valentine Burroughs, MD, MBA, chief medical officer and chairman of the department of medicine, North General Hospital, New York City. Arthur Frank, MD, medical director, George Washington University weight management program, Washington, D.C. George Blackburn, MD, PhD, director, Center for the Study of Nutrition Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston. Sidney Wolfe, MD, director, Public Citizen's Health Research Group, Washington, D.C.

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