Would you ever consider taking diet pills to help you lose weight?
According to a femail.co.uk poll 35 per cent of people say anything is worth a go if it helps shift those extra pounds.
Another third of those taking part in the vote said they did not trust their safety while the remainder said they would only take them if they could research them thoroughly.
Diet experts warn that many people eager to shed inches are unaware that some slimming pills available can trigger serious side effects – leading to death in some cases.
Obesity, which now affects one in five adults in Britain, is a major cause of ill health. But patients taking anti-obesity pills need to be aware that they should combine any drugs with diet and exercise under strict medical supervision.
Slimming pills can be loosely divided into three groups. Licensed pharmaceutical drugs, prescribed by NHS doctors; unlicensed pharmaceutical drugs available at private slimming clinics, and natural slimming products sold over-the-counter.
There are only a few licensed pharmaceutical slimming drugs in Britain. This is because the Government has systematically banned certain slimming pills shown to cause side effects and in some cases death.
The move to ban some pharmaceutical slimming pills followed concerns by medics that too many unscrupulous doctors were operating outside guidelines published by the Royal College of Physicians four years ago. The report recommended tighter restrictions on slimming drugs saying they should be taken only by the seriously obese under strict supervision.
Last year a survey by Health Which? Magazine revealed that one in two private slimming clinics were handing out unlicensed obesity drugs to women who didn’t have a weight problem.
Professor Rowland Jung who runs an obesity clinic at Ninewells Hospital in Tayside, warns of the dangers of such clinics.
‘People are really desperate and flocking to private slimming practices because there are too few NHS obesity clinics,’ he says. ‘The problem is there are no licensing laws for private practices, so we don’t know if their standards are up to scratch.’
He also believes there are many other dangers involved.
‘Some clinicians are relying on drugs to lose weight when it’s actually the diet and exercise that counts too. They do not ask for the medical history of the patient, so they don’t know about the individual’s genetic health.
‘They may also be handing out combinations of drugs that might react with each other which could cause any number of side effects. Other clinicians are handing out addictive drugs such as amphetamines.’
To make matters worse, a doctor registered in the UK can prescribe an unlicensed medicine, as long as the doctor assumes personal responsibility. This means doctors can prescribe anti-obesity drugs with known side effects.
Clinically trialled drugs
At the moment there are only two licensed slimming drugs. Orlistat, which is available by prescription, and methylcellulose sold over the counter. Another drug called Sibutramine is in the pipeline.
Orlistat: Also known as Xenicol, Orlistat prevents fat from being absorbed into the blood stream. The drug has been designed to dump fat in the bowels instead. The drug is non-addictive and should be used over three months in conjunction with a fat-reduced diet.
Celevac: has methylcellulose as its active ingredient. It is claimed to reduce a person’s intake of food by producing a feeling of fullness. Methylcellulose is also licensed as a laxative.
Sibutramine: Due on the market this summer, Sibutramine which will be marketed as Reductil, works by leaving patients feeling full if they eat only a fraction of their normal intake. It increases the feeling of fullness rather than suppressing the appetite like amphetamine-based slimming pills. It also speeds up the metabolic rate. One private clinic in London is already prescribing Sibutramine to patients.
Banned pharmaceutical drugs
Last year the appetite suppressant phentermine marketed as Duromine and Ionamin, was officially withdrawn in Britain by the European Commission. This addictive drug, which is similar to amphetamine or speed, is linked to heart palpitations and high blood pressure and could cause damage to heart valves.
Other side-effects include restlessness, headaches, constipation and even hair loss.
A similar slimming drug, amfepramone (Tenuate Dospan, Diethylpropion) which had been the subject of fears over heart damage, was temporarily withdrawn from the British market. But following an appeal, the Medicines Control Agency has lifted the ban on these products until the European Court reaches a final decision.
Three years ago the slimming drugs dexfenfluramine and fenfluramine, also known as Adifax and Ponderax, which come from the same chemical family as phentermine were banned.
These drugs have been linked to side-effects including hallucinations and palpitations. Also primary pulmonary hypertension, a rare form of high blood pressure which can lead to heart failure.
Herbal slimming products
There are also a handful of unlicensed herbal slimming pills available over the counter at chemists. These include fibre-based tablets and natural products to supress the appetite, such as Chromium, and fat burning substances, such as Carcinia Cambogia.
Professor Jung says: ‘Many of these herbal slimming pills are a gimmick. There is no scientifically controlled evidence to prove that they work.
‘In the case of diuretics – where the body eliminates water through urine – there is no evidence that shows people can lose weight through water. People can lose too much water and this can cause the kidney to shut down.
‘Too many laxatives – chemicals that stimulate bowel movement – can lead to bowel disease. The bacteria in the gut changes and fails to protect the gut walls.’
Source: Mail Online