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Friday, 1 June, 2001, 23:12 GMT 00:12 UK
Anti-obesity drug 'works well'
Xenical the anti-obesity drug
Xenical has produced dramatic results
Extensive tests on the anti-obesity drug Xenical have shown it does help people shed dramatic amounts of weight quickly.

Scientists have carried out a major study into the impact of the drug on thousands of volunteers.

The findings appear to vindicate the decision of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence earlier this year to make the drug available on the NHS to people with serious weight problems.

Xenical is a major weapon for physicians globally in their battle to manage weight

Dr Alfred Wirth
The NICE decision could cost the NHS 12m a year.

Xenical, the brand name for the drug orlistat, works by blocking the digestion of fat. It is the first treatment that does not rely on suppressing the appetite.

The new research, the largest of its kind, focused on more than 15,000 overweight men and women in Germany.

Body weight

It showed that on average patients lost 11% of their bodyweight after taking the drug for seven months.

Individuals shed an average of 24lbs, and lost about three inches from their waist measurement.

A total of 87% lost at least 5% of total bodyweight, half lost at least 10%, around 20% lost more than 15%, and some patients discarded 25% or more.

There were also significant improvements in blood sugar control, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure.

Overweight man
About half the adult population is overweight
A third of patients with type 2 diabetes and almost half of those with high cholesterol had their medication for those conditions reduced after treatment.

Those taking part in the study - 11,131 women and 4,418 men - had been overweight for an average of 14 years.

Xenical was prescribed in conjunction with a reduced-fat diet in 73% of patients and physical activity in 53%.

Dr Alfred Wirth, from the Teutoburger Wald Clinic, Bad Rothenfelde, Germany, who led the study, said: "This test was an extensive study of real patients with real health problems being treated properly in everyday conditions outside the carefully-structured environment of traditional clinical trials.

"What is so important is that by working together, patients have seen not only weight loss, but also improvements in other illnesses related to excess weight.

"Xenical is a major weapon for physicians globally in their battle to manage weight."

Serious problem

More than 300 million adults world-wide are overweight, and most suffer from weight-related illnesses.

In Europe, up to 20% of men and 25% of women are classified as obese, with a Body Mass Index of 30 or more. BMI is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres.

Treating people who are overweight accounts for up to 6% of total health care costs in developed countries.

Another anti-obesity pill, one which tricks the brain into making the stomach feel full, has just been launched in the UK.

Studies show that Reductil can help people lose weight by stifling their appetite and making them eat 20% less food.

The results of the study were presented at the 11th European Congress on Obesity in Vienna, Austria, on Friday.

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