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Slim enthusiasm for over-the-counter diet drugs

Public interest in over-the-counter slimming medications appears to be waning. For example, a temporary withdrawal of the Alli weight-loss product has not sparked a queue of weight watchers at the doors of local pharmacies.

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Image: Jari Pelkonen / Yle

For example, only a few dozen packs of diet pills are sold every month at a pharmacy in Rovaniemi up in Finnish Lapland.

”Over-the-counter diet drugs are usually greeted with an initial enthusiasm that gradually wanes,” says Marko Huotari a chemist at a pharmacy in Rovaniemi.

Alli was the first over-the-counter slimming pill to enter the market. Its effects are similar to an earlier preparation, Xenical.  However the new preparation has been withdrawn from the market following a break in the production of orlistat, the active ingredient of Alli.

Orlistat’s primary function is to prevent the absorption of fats, thereby reducing the intake of calories. It is intended for use in conjunction with a physician-supervised reduced calorie diet.

Although Alli may now be in short supply, other similar preparations to fight the bulge are still available.

”Sales of slimming pills vary seasonally. They are particularly popular after Christmas and other public holidays,” says Asta Ahonen, a pharmacist at the Ilopilleri pharmacy in Rovaniemi.

Low energy nutritional supplements have also come alongside slimming pills in the war on flab.

”Many sources provide diet information. People visit pharmacies for advice on diabetes and on ways to reduce blood pressure. These and other illnesses can be prevented either by weight loss or keeping one’s weight under control,” Ahonen explains.

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