Xenical is a medicine that’s used to treat obesity. The active ingredient in it is orlistat – a drug that helps the body to digest less fat from food.
Xenical should always be used alongside a low calorie/low fat diet as well as a healthy lifestyle and exercise routine. It’s only usually prescribed to obese people (those with a BMI of 30 or more) or people with a BMI of 28 or over with a weight-related health condition.
Xenical (or orlistat) works by blocking the action of certain enzymes in your gut that help to digest fat, and when taking the weight loss pills, they stop around a third of fat from your diet from being absorbed and digested.
The initial goal when taking Xenical or generic orlistat is to lose 5% of your starting body weight within the first 12 weeks of treatment.
For many years, Orlistat was the only weight loss medication available in the UK, as it was the only drug that had proven to be safe and effective for obese patients that needed support to lose weight.
Orlistat has been licenced as a weight loss aid in the UK since the late 1990s, and continues to be an effective form of treatment for obese patients, often helping them to lose the initial target of 5% of their starting weight within 3 months of treatment.
In the UK, orlistat is discontinued after 12 weeks if the initial target weight loss hasn’t been met. If you have managed to lose 5% of your starting weight whilst taking orlistat, you should be able to continue treatment indefinitely, though advice on this may vary from doctor to doctor. However, studies have investigated long term use of orlistat for up to 4 years with no ill effects.
The usual dose of Xenical is one 120mg capsule three times a day.
You should always take Xenical with or just after a meal, unless the meal contains no fat. In this case, you do not need to take a capsule.
If you use Alli (the OTC version available from pharmacies), the standard dose is one 60mg capsule three times a day, taken the same way as prescription-strength orlistat.
Weight loss pills
Weight loss pills should only ever be prescribed through a doctor or bought under the supervision of a pharmacist. Buying weight loss pills online from unlicensed and unregulated sources can be dangerous, as these sites don’t usually offer a consultation, and the product you receive ma contain ingredients that aren’t fit for human consumption.
If you’re seriously considering taking weight loss pills such as Xenical to help with obesity, you can either make an appointment with your own GP, or have an online consultation with one of our GMC registered prescribing doctors who can determine whether Xenical or generic orlistat is safe for you to take.
Weight loss pills aren’t a substitute for a healthy diet and exercise. In fact, for them to work to their full potential, they should be used alongside a well-balanced diet and sensible exercise plan. Unless you have any specific dietary requirements, you can follow the advice given by the NHS on their eat well page as a starting point.
In addition to using weight loss pills, you can also adjust your daily calorie intake to support sustainable weight loss. The NHS recommends 1,900 calories per day for men and 1,400 for women to lose around 1-2lbs per week.
Orlistat is available on the NHS to those that meet the critera and that have demonstrated a marked effort to lose weight in the past without medicine, for example by diet and exercise.
There are several reasons why diet and exercise alone might not be overly successful for obese patients. For example, some medical conditions can make it incredibly difficult to lose weight, which is why Orlistat is such a popular and effective treatment as it can support natural weight loss methods.
You can get orlistat on the NHS if:
- You have a BMI of over 30
- Previous attempts at weight loss without medication have been unsuccessful
- You have a BMI of 28 or above with a weight-related health condition
Is orlistat safe?
Orlistat is safe for most obese patients. It’s one of the safest and most effective treatments for weight loss globally, and is usually the first medicine that’s recommended by doctors to treat obesity.
However, as with all prescription medicines, there are certain people that should avoid the drug completely or seek advice from their own doctor before starting treatment. This is because of the potential dangers that orlistat can pose to certain groups of people. If you have any of the following conditions or problems, you should avoid taking orlistat until you’ve spoken to your doctor for advice:
- Allergic to orlistat or any ingredients in Xenical/generic orlistat capsules
- Chronic malabsorption syndrome
- A BMI of under 28
Taking orlistat if you fall into any of these categories can cause more harm than good, and should be avoided if at all possible.
There are also some medicines that might interact with Orlistat, so if you take any of the drugs on the following list, please speak to your own doctor before you buy orlistat online:
- Iodine salts
- HIV treatment
- Medicines for mental health conditions
- Antiepileptic medicines
- Oral hormonal contraceptives (the pill)
Your doctor may still prescribe orlistat to you once they’ve reviewed your other dosages. You should also take caution if you take any medicines for diabetes or high cholesterol, as losing weight can change the dose that you need.
If you take the pill and are planning on starting treatment on Xenical or orlistat, it may be wise to use another method of contraception such as condoms, as orlistat can sometimes cause diarrhoea, meaning that the pill may not be as effective. Other hormonal alternatives are available such as the IUS/IUD, injections, and the nexplanon implant. If you’re concerned about the effectiveness of your contraception whilst taking orlistat, please talk to your GP about other options.
Orlistat side effects
Due to the way that orlistat works in your body, it can commonly cause some gastrointestinal side effects that some patients find to be unpleasant. However, the overall benefits of the drug often outweigh the side effects that can come with it. Losing weight is incredibly important for your health, but if you feel as though you can’t tolerate Xenical, or that the side effects are too much for you, you should see your doctor to talk about alternatives.
Side effects can vary in severity from person to person, and some of the most commonly reported symptoms associated with taking orlistat include:
Urgent or increased need to poo
Flatulence with discharge
Oily or fatty stools
Low blood sugar levels
Teeth and gum problems
How long does orlistat take to work
Once you start taking Xenical/orlistat, you can expect to notice some side effects within 1-2 days. These often include oily stools or discharge, and is a sign that the drug is working in your body. Any oily discharge that you notice is the excess fat that hasn’t been digested by your body.
If you take orlistat as directed, you should lose around 5% of your starting weight within the first 12 weeks of treatment. For example, if your starting weight was 200lb, you should lose at least 10lb in the first 3 months of treatment with Xenical.
Weight loss injections
If you’ve tried orlistat and haven’t been successful, or you weren’t able to cope with the side effects, there are alternative treatments available such as weight loss injections.
Liraglutide (brand name, Saxenda) has been licenced in recent years to treat obesity. These weight loss injections are taken daily in increasing doses throughout a 12-week course. Saxenda has proven to be an effective treatment for weight loss.
Recently, Ozempic has gained traction as a weight loss treatment, off-label. Whilst Ozempic injections aren’t licenced for obesity, the drug is currently going through clinical trials to see whether it can be prescribed for obesity. Some doctors will currently prescribe the drug to patients with a BMI of over 30 if they think it will help them to lose weight. This can vary from doctor to doctor and is always on a case by case basis.
If you prefer not to go through the NHS, you can buy orlistat from reputable online prescribers such as Doctor4U. Orlistat and Xenical are both available and work exactly the same in your body. You can also buy Alli, though it’s important to know that Alli is half the dosage of orlistat and Xenical, but will still help with weight loss.
If you decide to buy orlistat, Xenical or Alli through Doctor4U, you’ll need to fill out a consultation form for weight loss before you choose your treatment. This will then be sent to one of our doctors who will review your answers and decide whether orlistat is the right drug for you. If they decide that it is, an electronic prescription will be generated and your treatment will be sent out from our partner pharmacy.
When you buy orlistat or any other prescription medicines online, always look for a clickable logo that says “click to verify if this website is operating legally”. Ours can be found on the footer of our site on every page, and it will take you to our entry on the MHRA website. The MHRA are the government regulating body for medicines and healthcare products, so you can rest assured that any medicine you buy from us adheres to UK standards.
Advice on Addiction and Medication Restrictions
If you are at all worried or concerned about an addiction to any type of medication, we urge you to speak to a professional for help and advice. Below are links to organisations that can help.
Talk To Frank
NHS Help & Advice On Drug Addiction