Orlistat is a drug used to help people lose weight. It is available by prescription (sold as Xenical) and without a prescription (sold as Alli). The medication is taken with each fat-containing meal, up to three times daily. It works by inhibiting the action of enzymes that break down fat, which reduces fat absorption in the body. Side effects of orlistat include stomach pain, gas, and oily spotting.

What Is Orlistat?

Orlistat (Alli™, Xenical®) is a weight loss medication. It is available with a prescription (sold under the name Xenical) or without a prescription (sold under the name Alli).
(Click What Is Orlistat Used For? for more information, including possible off-label uses.)

Who Makes It?

The prescription version of orlistat (Xenical) is made by Roche Pharmaceuticals, while the non-prescription version (Alli) is made by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare.

How Does Orlistat Work?

Orlistat works by decreasing the absorption of fat from your diet. The stomach and intestine have enzymes, called lipases, that break down fat into smaller molecules, which are then absorbed from your digestive tract. Orlistat binds to lipases and inhibits their activity, helping to decrease fat absorption. However, the drug does not have any effect on carbohydrates or protein.

When and How to Take It

General considerations for when and how to take orlistat include the following:
  • The medication comes in capsule form. It is taken by mouth with each fat-containing meal, up to three times per day.
  • If you miss a meal, or if you have a meal without any fat, you should skip the dose of orlistat.
  • Orlistat should be combined with a reduced-calorie, low-fat diet. Eating too much fat increases the risk of side effects. In general, you should try to limit your fat intake to less than 30 percent of your total daily calories.
  • For the medication to work properly, it must be taken as prescribed.
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Orlistat -- Medication for Weight Loss

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