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Orlistat is a medication used to help weight loss. It works by blocking some of the fat you eat, preventing it from being absorbed by your body. When used in combination with diet and exercise, it can help accelerate weight loss.

What is Orlistat?

Orlistat is a medicine used to treat obesity. Obesity describes someone who is excessively overweight, to the point that it is a risk to their health. Obesity carries with it the risk of numerous health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. Orlistat, in combination with a healthy diet and exercise, can help an obese person to lose weight.

Orlistat is available both on prescription, as 120mg tablets, and over the counter as 60mg tablets under the brand name Alli. It’s also possible for us to prescribe it to you at Instant eCare. Contact us to find out more.

For more information about orlistat, consult the patient information leaflet.

How it works

Orlistat works in your digestive system to stop some of the fat from the food you eat from being digested. Orlistat attaches to the enzymes in your digestive system, and blocks them from breaking down around one third of the fat you have eaten during your meal. This undigested fat cannot be absorbed, and is eliminated by your body.

Orlistat is only effective in conjunction with a low-calorie intake diet and exercise.

Before you take it

You should not take this medicine if you are allergic to orlistat, or have had an allergic reaction to any weight-loss medication in the past. You should speak to your doctor, who will be able to recommend an alternative treatment for your obesity.

If you have chronic malabsorption syndrome or cholestasis, you should not take orlistat and should speak to your doctor to seek an alternative treatment.

To gain the maximum benefit from this medication, you must follow the nutrition plan set for you by your doctor. Continued consumption of excessive calories and fat will mitigate any weight-loss effect.

Orlistat may affect medications taken for other conditions. You should discuss any other medications you are taking with your doctor, as taking orlistat may mean your dose needs to be changed.

Orlistat may cause changes in your bowel habits. These are usually no cause for concern. Changes that may occur include fatty or oily stools, due to the presence of undigested fat in your faeces. This is also made more likely if you eat a diet high in fat.

Taking orlistat during pregnancy or while breastfeeding is not recommended. Speak to your doctor for more information.

While taking orlistat, your daily intake of fat must be distributed evenly throughout the day. If you take orlistat with a meal that is very high in fat, this may increase the likelihood of experiencing gastrointestinal side effects.

Orlistat may interact with other medications. You should speak to your doctor or pharmacist before you take orlistat if you are taking any of the following:

  • Anticoagulants such as warfarin
  • Amiodarone used to treat an irregular heartbeat
  • Levothyroxine or iodine salts to treat an abnormal thyroid gland
  • Ciclosporin or other immune system suppressants

This is not a complete list of warnings or interactions. For a full list, consult the patient information leaflet.

Dosage Instructions

Always take orlistat exactly as your doctor or pharmacist has told you. Never exceed the stated dose. If you are in any way unsure of how to take orlistat, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

The typical dose of orlistat is one 120mg capsule, taken with each of your three main meals of the day. It can be taken immediately before, during or up to an hour after a meal.

Swallow your capsule whole, with plenty of water. Do not crush, chew on or suck the capsule.

Orlistat must be taken with a calorie controlled diet, rich in vegetables and fruit. For orlistat to be as effective as possible, you must avoid the intake of fatty foods between meals, such as savoury snacks or chocolate.

Orlistat will only work when taken alongside dietary fat. If you miss a meal or eat a meal that contains no fat, you do not have to take orlistat.

Store orlistat in a cool, dry place, free from heat and moisture. Keep it out of the reach of children and pets.

Common Side Effects of Orlistat

Like any medication, orlistat may cause side effects. These are usually mild to moderate in nature. However, if they persist, or they concern you, you should contact your doctor. Side effects may include:

  • Headache
  • Flatulence (with/without discharge)
  • Liquid stools
  • Low blood sugar
  • Influenza
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Oily or fatty stools

Orlistat may also cause more rare side effects. If these occur, you should consult your doctor. Side effects can include:

  • Rectal pain or discomfort
  • Tooth or gum disorder
  • Irregularity of menstruation
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Fatigue
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Gallstones
  • Pancreatitis
  • Hepatitis

Orlistat may also cause an allergic reaction. This is extremely rare, but an allergic reaction is an emergency. If you believe you are experiencing an allergic reaction, seek medical advice immediately. Symptoms may include:

  • Trouble breathing or speaking
  • Tightness in the chest or throat
  • Hives or nettle rash
  • Skin rash - blistering, peeling, redness

This is not an exhaustive list of side effects. For a full list, consult the patient information leaflet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Orlistat suitable for children?

Orlistat is not intended to be taken by children. Speak to your doctor, who will be able to recommend an appropriate weight loss plan for your child. We do not prescribe any medication to anyone under the age of 18.

I’m pregnant. Can I take Orlistat?

It is not recommended to take orlistat during pregnancy, as the effects on an unborn baby are not known.

What happens if I miss a dose?

If you forget to take your medicine, take it as soon as you remember, as long as this is within one hour of your last meal. Continue to take it as scheduled.

What happens if I take too much?

If you have taken more capsules than you should, seek medical advice immediately, as you may experience increased side effects.

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