Published Online: Wednesday, November 1, 2006

GlaxoSmithKline is asking pharmacists for help. The drugmaker would like pharmacists to warn patients about the side effects that may occur with Alli, the OTC version of the prescription drug Xenical (orlistat). The FDA is considering the drugmaker's application to a sell a low-dose version of Xen-ical at retail pharmacies, which the company expects to launch in the first half of 2007.

The drug works by stopping fat from being absorbed by the body?a process that can cause oily stools, excess gas, and rectal discharge. Company spokesperson Brian Jones said that the company is educating pharmacists to instruct patients that they must exercise and adhere to a low-fat diet to avoid these potential side effects.

"If you keep to a low-fat diet, you won't notice them. But if you continue with a high-fat diet," the effects are more likely to emerge, he said.

Speaking on OTC therapies at a recent conference on obesity, Jennifer McFee, PharmD, a faculty coordinator and pharmacist at Walgreens, said, "If a patient experiences these unpleasant side effects, [he or she] will likely discontinue use." She added that GlaxoSmithKline is "really targeting pharmacists," and its officials met with Walgreens executives "to really get them on board."

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