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RPSGB reiterates alli guidance

Society issues practice guidance reminder for weight loss drug after newspaper reports reveal non-adherence

Society issues practice guidance reminder for weight loss drug after newspaper reports reveal non-adherence.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) has called for pharmacists to be more vigilant and adhere to practice guidance when selling weight loss drug alli (orlistat) following two newspaper reports of regulatory non-compliance just six days after the product went on sale on April 22.  

Practice guidance developed and disseminated by the Society and alli manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) prior to the on sale date clearly states that the product should be sold only to patients who have had a consultation and who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 28 or more.

According to reports in the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Star Sunday 'mystery shopper' exercises revealed that pharmacies were not adhering to RPSGB guidance on alli. The exercise saw women of healthy weight presenting in pharmacies to buy alli. In some instances pharmacies carried out consultations and refused to sell alli to the mystery shoppers. However, others did not follow correct procedure before dispensing the drug, according to the newspapers.

Jessica Fellowes of the Sunday Telegraph was unsuccessful in her attempts to buy all with alli the pharmacies she visited refusing to sell her the drug. However, Charlotte Fisher from the Daily Star Sunday managed to get two weeks' worth of the product from five out of six pharmacies – quite a feat for a woman of 5ft 4ins weighing 7st 10lbs with a BMI of 18.5. While in all cases she was told she did not need the product, she obtained it by claiming that it was for her overweight mother.

"It is disappointing that some pharmacies have not followed the guidance," said RPSGB director of policy, David Pruce. "It is important to emphasise the need to closely follow the requirements for selling orlistat. Not only is it crucial pharmacists carry out a thorough consultation before deciding whether or not to sell orlistat, they must also be aware that some patients may lie in order to obtain the drug.

"Pharmacists need to be alert for vulnerable people with eating disorder or body image issues who may try to obtain orlistat for the wrong purposes," he added.

Practice guidance for alli can be found at www.rpsgb.org/pdfs/otcorlistatguid.pdf

28th April 2009

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