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Press Release

Safe use of medicines containing orlistat

27 May 2010

The Department of Health (DH) today (May 27) drew the public's attention to the potential rare occurrences of severe liver injury in patients taking weight-loss medicines containing orlistat.

Through the DH's drug surveillance scheme, DH noted that the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) advised consumers and healthcare professionals the potential risk on May 26 (US time). Changes in product labels are required to reflect this rare occurrence.

The USFDA reviewed cases of severe liver injury reported in individuals taking orlistat and identified 13 cases. However at this time, a cause-and-effect relationship of severe liver injury with orlistat use has not been established.

In Hong Kong, there are three registered products containing orlistat, namely Xenical, Zerocal and Alli. The former two which contain orlistat 120mg can be sold on a doctor's prescription and dispensed under the supervision of a pharmacist, whereas Alli which contains orlistat 60mg can be sold under the supervision of a pharmacist.

Healthcare professionals and consumer should be aware about the rare occurrence of severe liver injury in people taking orlistat products.

Consumers taking these products should contact their healthcare professionals immediately if they present with signs and symptoms of liver injury, which include itching, yellow eyes or skin, dark urine, loss of appetite or light-colored stools. They should talk with their healthcare professionals about any concerns.

A DH spokesman said that weight control should be achieved through good diet and appropriate exercise. They should consult healthcare professionals before using any medication for weight control.

  Last Revision Date : 27 May 2010