2005-10-11

Health & Intolerance: Slimming Pills over The Counter

The slimming drug 'Xenical' is now available without prescription as part of a new initiative designed to combat the epidemic of obesity, but will improved access to these types of treatments help or hinder our ongoing battle against the bulge? 'Xenical' works by blocking the absorption of fat -- roughly a third of the fat, and the kilocalories (energy) it contains, travels straight through someone taking the drug three times a day. Its use on the NHS ( National Health Service) has been approved by 'The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) and shown to be both safe and effective. So, why not make it available over-the-counter? Because 'Xenical' is expensive, its use on the NHS has been largely confined to seriously overweight people who have had to lose weight as a matter of urgency. But this new initiative, which has been piloted by 'Boots', will make the drug available to almost anyone who is obese (a Body Mass Index -- BMI -- of 30 or more) who can stump up 10_GBP/week to pay for it privately. And that worries me because it is yet another step in the inexorable march towards the total medicalisation of obesity. Being overweight is now increasingly perceived as an 'illness'; a new-found status that allows 'sufferers' to dodge responsibility. Their weight is everybody's fault but their own. Diet plans, food manufacturers, school cooks, retailers, doctors and even remote control TVs have all been blamed at some stage. But I am not a 'fattist', just a pragmatist. The reason why most people are overweight is that they eat too much, and/or don't take enough exercise. Weight gain has little to do with your metabolism and all to do with how much you eat and how little you do. Slimming drugs are a useful tool for getting people down to a healthy weight in the short term, but the difficult part is keeping them there. 'The long, short and fat of healthy living', Dr.Mark Porter, The Scotsman, 2005-10-11, Tu

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