SLIMMERS using one of Britain’s most popular weight-loss pills were yesterday warned it could cause possible liver or kidney failure.
Dieters could be at risk of severe illness from the fat-buster which is available over the counter on the high street, according to a new study.
Alli, which blocks the absorption of fat in the gut, was hailed as a wonder drug when it became available in UK pharmacies in 2009.
The drug is a half-strength version of a prescription obesity pill called Xenical.
Studies showed that people taking Alli three times a day for 12 weeks were twice as likely to lose at least 10 per cent of their body weight. But the pill contains the drug orlistat, which some users say can bring on a host of side-effects from hepatitis to other liver problems, headaches, stomach problems, depression and fatigue.
Official figures show that orlistat accounted for 74 per cent of the 1.45 million weight-loss drugs prescribed in England in 2009, which cost £46.8million.
Now, new research claims that Alli inhibits a key enzyme in the body that may lead to “severe toxicity of internal organs such as the liver and kidney”.
This inhibition may be irreversible and could arguably be caused even by low level use of the drug, experts say.
Professor Bingfang Yan’s study, published in the journal Biochemical Pharmacology, also says the drug alters the effectiveness of medicines, and particularly limits the effects of some anticancer drugs.
However, GlaxoSmithKline, makers of Alli, strongly refute any suggestion the medicine is unsafe.