Despite advances, 'magic pill' eludes dieters
January 31, 1997
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Eugenia Halsey
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- For some people, it may sound too good to
be true: a way to eat plenty of heavy food without getting
That's the promise of Xenical, a new diet pill not yet
available on drug store shelves.
Xenical prevents the body from absorbing about a third of the
fat eaten. That way, the fat passes straight through one's
body, instead of sticking to thighs or other parts where it's
But the pill comes with some unpleasant side effects: gas and
Xenical is supposed to be combined with a moderately low fat
diet and exercise. People lose, on average, about 10 percent
of their original weight with the drug. Manufacturer Hoffman-
LaRouche has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to
Even closer to FDA approval is Meridia, a weight loss drug
made by Knoll Pharmaceutical.
Like the hot diet pills Redux and Fen-Phen, Meridia makes one
feel less hungry. Unlike those drugs, it doesn't appear to be
linked to a fatal lung disease.
The down side is Meridia can raise blood pressure,
illustrating that scientists still haven't devised a miracle
cure for weight loss.
Just ask Lynn McAfee of the Council on Size and Weight
Discrimination, who has been trying out weight loss drugs
since she was six years old. "I'm a very fat woman, and I
think that every fat person has been brought up wanting the
Still, obesity experts such as Jim Hill of the University of
Colorado think the problem can be managed.
"There's some sense that at least with blood pressure, it's
fairly easily measured, and if there is an increase, then the
physician can take the patient off the drug fairly quickly,"
The new diet pills are a tool, not the solution, Hill said.
"I really caution people into thinking the pills are going to
do the job, that we don't have to do anything else. We can
sit on the couch and eat our high-fat foods and take our pill
and be thin," said Hill.
Studies have shown that people have to stay on diet pills
indefinitely -- or they regain the weight.
And there's nothing magic about that.
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