Thursday, February 15, 2007

Just What We Need

When I heard the news that Orlistat was going over-the-counter on NPR about a week ago, I actually said out loud to the air in my car, "You've got to be kidding me." As if what overweight Americans and self-conscious young women alike need is a readily available and extremely powerful diet drug. While the arguments for making this drug available to more people--including the large number of obese Americans--is moving, I'm not convinced that this is a good idea. Studies show that this drug is effective at increasing weight loss when paired with diet and lifestyle changes. But I'm concerned about the potential for its abuse by people who don't really need it.

An article in USA Today didn't make me feel much better. Even if GlaxoSmithKline works "with retailers to make sure the drug is sold only to adults," what's to stop young adult women (and men) with eating disorders or unrealistic self-images from using the drug to lose unhealthy amounts of weight? And why are the FDA and GSK so quick to blow off studies that show potential increases in cancer risk for those who take Orlistat?

With all the drugs being manufactured and prescribed these days, and all the after-the-fact research and law-suits based on previously unmentioned side-effects, I'm starting to wonder who is on the consumer's side. Clearly the drug companies are out to make a buck, but isn't the FDA supposed to protect us from the money-hungry, quick-trigger executives looking to pad their pockets? At least when we needed a prescription for Orlistat, a doctor was held responsible for inappropriate drug distribution. But now? The only ones responsible are the ones emotionally distraught by their weight (whether unhealthy or not). Can we make the right decision when we're being bombarded incessantly with messages to be thin, thinner, thinnest?

Unfortunately, I think there are too many people out there, women in particular, who will be negatively affected by the appearance of a new diet drug on the shelves of their local Wal-Mart pharmacy. While it might be beneficial for some (maybe even many), will the benefits outweigh the risk of taking Orlistat out of the hands of doctors and placing it into mine. I guess time will tell.


ms. biped said...

wow, i didn't know about this. awful. i wish i were surprised, though. we have such weird priorities in this country, i think. ugh.

ms. biped said...

and, cool! you bought a house! woooo! that's very very exciting. especially all the painting, making things exactly as you want them. CONGRATULATIONS!

Clicky Web Analytics