Alli OTC Fat-Blocking Drug Selling Fast

Alli, the over-the-counter version of the fat-blocker Xenical, is selling lot hotcakes.

It’s only half as powerful as its prescription-strength predecessor, but the new fat-blocking drug Alli (pronounced “ally”) is creating a serious buzz among dieters. The first over-the-counter weight-loss pill approved by the FDA, Alli works by blocking about one-fourth of consumed fat. The drug’s makers don’t claim that it’s a miracle drug — a reduced-calorie, low-fat diet and regular exercise are necessary companions for it to be effective — but dieters are eager to reap its potential rewards.


Alli users must contend with some less-than-glamorous side effects — gas, oily discharge and an inability to control bowel movements — and skeptics of the pill’s enduring benefits point out that those aren’t the only reasons to think twice before taking the drug. “There are demonstrable short-term risks and no possibility of long-term benefit,” Sidney Wolfe, MD, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group in Washington, told WebMD. “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.”

But that advice isn’t likely to dissuade serial dieters who are looking for a less grueling way to lose more weight.

Indeed. Of course, walking an extra two miles a day isn’t exactly a “mild change” in exercise levels. My guess, though, is that taking a pill that blocks fat will simply encourage people to eat more fat.

FILED UNDER: Uncategorized,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tracy says:

    As someone who’s trying (and slowly succeeding) to lose weight, and is still considering the supplement, I’ll weigh in on why.

    From what I have read, the side effects are worse the more fat you eat. If you reduce your fat intake as you should, they’re minimal. If you eat too much, it gets worse as all of the fat blocked from your body simply travels directly through your system.

    Therefore, I’d be forced to eat better. I’m doing pretty well on my own, but I’ve been at this for over five months and I’ve lost 17 lbs. Part of it is the on-again-off-again nature of my diet. I go to visit my family, and long car trips = me eating badly…. and then it takes me some time to get back into it as I should. I usually exercise less on these trips, usually just walking a couple of miles a day instead of jogging or pilates, but I at least keep that part up.

    So my thoughts are: Speed it up a bit (I don’t expect a miracle, nor do I want one), and force myself to eat better more consistantly. I look at it from the point of view that it could help with the part of the new habits that I’m having trouble with.

    However, I’m still weighing risks verses benefits. Doing it on my own is working, though VERY slowly (and I don’t expect fast, believe me), but I wouldn’t mind a little help to keep me on track.

    Many people who’ve never been significantly overweight don’t understand how truly difficult it is to lose weight. I can eat what a thin person eats, and still gain weight. My metabolism is very different, and it’s not easy to change that. New studies are showing that being overweight effects your appetite, making it not shut off when it should. Even without that problem, the body’s instinct is to eat enough calories to maintain it’s current form. It’s amazingly hard to ignore that. These things, plus a lifetime of habits, make it hard going.

    Over the years, I’ve probably learned enough about healthy eating and exercise habits to make a good start on a career as a nutritionist. But it isn’t always easy to apply that to life. I think that, if you weigh the risks and the advantages, this drug could help a lot of people. The problem I see is people who only need to drop 10 pounds thinking this is the way to do it, or as you said, people thinking that it allows all the fat consumption they want – though I think the side effects might at least lessen that occurrence.

    I’m still up in the air about it, but if I decide to try it, I’ll be satisfied that I made an informed decision, and that I’m doing what I feel is best for me.