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Researchers from the British Columbia Children's Hospital in Vancouver studied the effects of the weight loss drug orlistat (Xenical) on obese teens and found it to be safe and effective when combined with a low-calorie diet, exercise, and behavioral therapy. Orlistat acts by reducing fat absorption in the intestines and has a good safety profile when used by overweight and obese adults. These results prompted researchers to test the drug on 539 obese teens randomly assigned to receive either orlistat or a placebo?all the teen participants received behavioral therapy and followed a low-calorie diet and an exercise regime for 1 year. Of the 2 groups, 117 in the placebo group and 232 in the orlistat group completed the study, but data from 180 and 348 patients, respectively, were included in the analysis. While both groups decreased their body mass index (BMI) by week 12, BMI in the orlistat group remained steady, while BMI in the placebo group increased to higher levels than at the start of the study. At the 1-year point, BMI decreased by 0.55 in the orlistat group and by 0.31 in the placebo group. Side effects, which were more prevalent in the orlistat group, included fatty or oily stool and abdominal pain, but were mild to moderate.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.