Packaging of orlistat (Xenical) 120 mg capsules, as sold in Canada.
Systematic (IUPAC) name
(S)-((S)-1-((2S,3S)-3-hexyl-4-oxooxetan-2-yl)tridecan-2-yl) 2-formamido-4-methylpentanoate
Clinical data
Trade names Xenical, Alli
AHFS/Drugs.com monograph
MedlinePlus a601244
Licence data EMA:LinkUS FDA:link
Pregnancy cat. B1(AU) B(US)
Legal status Pharmacist Only (S3) (AU) P (UK) OTC (US)
Routes Oral
Pharmacokinetic data
Bioavailability Negligible[1]
Protein binding >99%
Metabolism In the GI tract
Half-life 1 to 2 hours
Excretion Fecal
CAS number 96829-58-2 YesY
ATC code A08AB01
PubChem CID 3034010
DrugBank DB01083
ChemSpider 2298564 YesY
UNII 95M8R751W8 N
KEGG D04028 YesY
Chemical data
Formula C29H53NO5 
Mol. mass 495.735 g/mol
SMILES eMolecules & PubChem
 N(what is this?)  (verify)

Orlistat (marketed as a prescription under the trade name Xenical by Roche in most countries, or over-the-counter as Alli[2] by GlaxoSmithKline in the United Kingdom and the United States), also known as tetrahydrolipstatin, is a drug designed to treat obesity.[3] Its primary function is preventing the absorption of fats from the human diet, thereby reducing caloric intake. It is intended for use in conjunction with a physician-supervised reduced-calorie diet. Orlistat is the saturated derivative of lipstatin, a potent natural inhibitor of pancreatic lipases isolated from the bacterium Streptomyces toxytricini.[4] However, due to simplicity and stability, orlistat rather than lipstatin was developed into an anti-obesity drug.[5]

The effectiveness of orlistat in promoting weight loss is definite, though modest. Pooled data from clinical trials suggest that people given orlistat in addition to lifestyle modifications, such as diet and exercise, lose about 2–3 kilograms (4.4–6.6 lb) more than those not taking the drug over the course of a year.[6] Orlistat also modestly reduces blood pressure, and appears to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, whether due to weight loss itself or to other effects; in a large randomized controlled trial, orlistat was found to reduce the incidence of diabetes by nearly 40% in obese people.[7]

Orlistat is notorious for its gastrointestinal side effects (sometimes referred to as treatment effects), which can include steatorrhea (oily, loose stools). These decrease with time, however, and are the most frequently reported adverse effects of the drug[citation needed]. In the United States, the European Union, and Australia, orlistat is available for sale without a prescription. Over-the-counter approval was controversial in the United States, with consumer advocacy group Public Citizen repeatedly opposing it on safety and efficacy grounds.[8] Generics of orlistat are available in India and Russia.

Medical uses

Orlistat is used for the treatment of obesity.[9] The amount of weight loss achieved with orlistat varies. In one-year clinical trials, between 35.5% and 54.8% of subjects achieved a 5% or greater decrease in body mass, although not all of this mass was necessarily fat. Between 16.4% and 24.8% achieved at least a 10% decrease in body mass.[10] After orlistat was stopped, a significant number of subjects regained weight—up to 35% of the weight they had lost.[10]

The incidence of type 2 diabetes in an obese population over four years is decreased with orlistat (6.2%) compared to placebo (9.0%).[7] Long-term use of orlistat also leads to a modest reduction in blood pressure (mean reductions of 2.5 and 1.9 mmHg in systolic and diastolic blood pressure respectively).[11]


Orlistat is contraindicated in:[12]

Side effects

The primary side effects of the drug are gastrointestinal-related, and include steatorrhea (oily, loose stools with excessive flatus due to unabsorbed fats reaching the large intestine), fecal incontinence and frequent or urgent bowel movements. GlaxoSmithKline recommends that all users be cautious of the possible side effects until they "have a sense of any treatment effects".[13][14] To minimize these effects, foods with high fat content should be avoided; the manufacturer advises consumers to follow a low-fat, reduced-calorie diet. Oily stools and flatulence can be controlled by reducing the dietary fat content to somewhere in the region of 15 grams per meal.[15] The manual for Alli makes it clear that orlistat treatment involves aversion therapy, encouraging the user to associate eating fat with unpleasant treatment effects.[16]

According to Roche, side effects are most severe when beginning therapy and may decrease in frequency with time;[12] this is supported by the results of the XENDOS study, which found that only 36% of people had gastrointestinal adverse effects during their fourth year of taking orlistat, whereas 91% of study subjects had experienced at least one GI-related side effect during the first year of treatment.[7] It has also been suggested that the decrease in side effects over time may be associated with long-term compliance with a low-fat diet.[17]

The side effect profile of orlistat led US consumer group Prescription Access Litigation (PAL) to award its first 2007 "Bitter Pill Award" to GlaxoSmithKline—the 'With Allies Like This, Who Needs Enemas?' Award.[18][19]

On May 26, 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a revised label for Xenical to include new safety information about cases of severe liver injury that have been reported rarely with the use of this medication.[20]

An analysis of over 900 orlistat users in Ontario showed that their rate of acute kidney injury was more than triple that of non-users.[21] The putative mechanism for this effect is postulated to be excessive oxalate absorption from the gut and its subsequent deposition in the kidney, with excessive oxalate absorption being a known consequence of fat malabsorption.


Despite a higher incidence of breast cancer amongst those taking orlistat in early, pooled clinical trial data—the analysis of which delayed FDA review of orlistat[22]—a two-year study published in 1999 found similar rates between orlistat and placebo (0.54% versus 0.51%), and evidence that tumors predated treatment in 3 of the 4 participants who had them.[23] There is evidence from an in vitro study to suggest that the introduction of specific varied preparations containing orlistat, namely the concurrent administration of orlistat and the monoclonal antibody trastuzumab, can actually induce cell death in breast cancer cells and block their growth.[24]

A 2006 animal study linked orlistat with aberrant crypt foci (ACF), lesions found in the colon which are believed to be one of the earliest precursors of colon cancer.[25][26]


Absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and other fat-soluble nutrients is inhibited by the use of orlistat. A multivitamin tablet containing vitamins A, D, E, K, and beta-carotene should be taken once a day, at bedtime, when using orlistat.[12]

On June 4, 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released its quarterly list of drugs that are under investigation for potential safety issues or new safety information. Orlistat was included in the list as having a "Potential Signal of Serious Risk" of liver toxicity, meaning that a potential risk of liver toxicity was identified based on reports to the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System between October and December 2008.[27] Isolated cases of orlistat-associated liver problems have been reported before.[28] On August 24, the FDA reported that it would investigate 30 cases of liver damage reported between 1999 and October 2008 in patients taking orlistat, including six cases of liver failure.[29]


Orlistat may reduce plasma levels of ciclosporin (also known as "cyclosporin" or "cyclosporine", trade names Sandimmune, Gengraf, Neoral, etc.), an immunosuppressive drug frequently used to prevent transplant rejection; the two drugs should therefore not be administered concomitantly.[12] Orlistat can also impair absorption of the antiarrhythmic amiodarone.[30]

Mechanism of action

Crystallographic structure of human fatty acid synthase (rainbow color, N-terminus = blue, C-terminus = red) inhibited by orlistat (space-filling model; white = grey, oxygen = red, nitrogen = blue).[31]

Orlistat works by inhibiting gastric and pancreatic lipases, the enzymes that break down triglycerides in the intestine. When lipase activity is blocked, triglycerides from the diet are not hydrolyzed into absorbable free fatty acids, and are excreted undigested instead. Only trace amounts of orlistat are absorbed systemically; the primary effect is local lipase inhibition within the GI tract after an oral dose. The primary route of elimination is through the feces.

At the standard prescription dose of 120 mg three times daily before meals, orlistat prevents approximately 30% of dietary fat from being absorbed,[32] and about 25% at the standard over-the-counter dose of 60 mg.[33][34] Higher doses do not produce more potent effects.[10]

Society and culture

Legal status

Orlistat has historically been available by prescription only, and this situation continues in Canada. In Australia, the European Union,[35] and the United States, certain formulations of orlistat have been approved for sale without a prescription.

In 2009, Roche began recruiting in Russia for a clinical trial of Xenical in obese teenagers between the ages of 12 and 14.[36]

Australia and New Zealand

In Australia and New Zealand, orlistat is currently available over-the-counter in 120 mg size (84 capsules to the pack). Initially available only with a prescription, it was reclassified as a "Pharmacist Only Medicine" in October 2003. In late 2006, the Australian Consumers' Association complained that Roche was inappropriately advertising the drug to teenagers, and Roche was forced to withdraw its ads.[37] The Association filed further complaints[37] with the Therapeutic Goods Administration—TGA, Australia's regulatory authority for healthcare products—and the TGA's Scheduling Committee agreed to convene on February 20, 2007, to discuss possible revoking of orlistat's over-the-counter status.[38] The Committee ultimately decided to keep orlistat as a Schedule 3 drug, but withdrew its authorization of direct-to-consumer Xenical advertising, stating this "increased pressure on pharmacists to provide orlistat to consumers...this in turn had the potential to result in inappropriate patterns of use".[39] Xenical has recently began being advertised direct-to-customers again.

United States

On January 23, 2006, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel voted 11 to 3 to recommend the approval of an OTC formulation of orlistat, to be marketed under the name alli (play /ˈæl/) by GlaxoSmithKline.[40] Approval was granted on February 7, 2007,[41] and alli became the first weight loss drug officially sanctioned by the U.S. government for over-the-counter use.[42] Consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, through its Health Research Group, opposed over-the-counter approval for orlistat, calling it "the height of recklessness" and "a dangerous mistake" due to questionable benefits and possible adverse effects.[8] Public Citizen had already called for a ban of orlistat in April 2006.[43]

Alli became available in the U.S. in June 2007. It is sold as 60 mg capsules—half the dosage of prescription orlistat.[8][42]

European Union

On January 21, 2009, the European Medicines Agency granted approval for the sale of orlistat without a prescription.[35][44]

Generic formulations

As of September 2009, no generic formulations of orlistat are legally available in the United States. U.S. patent protection for Xenical, originally to end on June 18, 2004, was extended by five years (until 2009) by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The extension was granted on July 20, 2002,[45] and expired on June 18, 2009.[46]

Generic orlistat is available in India, under the brands Olistat, Obelit, Orlica and Reeshape.[47]

In Russia orlistat is available under the brand Orsoten.


Glaxo was criticized for financing a documentary about eating.[48]

Counterfeit products

In January 2010, the United States Food and Drug Administration issued an alert stating that some counterfeit versions of Alli sold over the Internet contain no orlistat, and instead contain the weight-loss drug sibutramine. The concentration of sibutramine in these counterfeit products is at least twice the amount recommended for weight loss. [49]


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  2. ^ Stylized with a lowercase a on the packaging (that is, "alli"), but capitalized conventionally in the manual.
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Further reading

  • Boehm, Marcus F.; McClurg, Michael R.; Pathirana, Charles; Mangelsdorf, David; White, Steven K.; Hebert, Jonathan; Winn, David; Goldman, Mark E. et al. (1994). "Synthesis of high specific activity tritium-labeled [3H]-9-cis-retinoic acid and its application for identifying retinoids with unusual binding properties". Journal of Medicinal Chemistry 37 (3): 408. doi:10.1021/jm00029a013. PMID 8308867. 
  • Hanessian, Stephen; Tehim, Ashok; Chen, Ping (1993). "Total synthesis of (-)-tetrahydrolipstatin". The Journal of Organic Chemistry 58: 7768. doi:10.1021/jo00079a022. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Orlistat — Général Nom IUPAC (2S) 2 (formylamino) 4 méthylpentanoate de (2S) 1 [(2S,3S) 3 hexyl 4 oxooxétan 2 yl]undécan 2 yle …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Orlistat — Orlistat …   Wikipedia Español

  • orlistat — fármaco inhibidor de la lipasa intestinal que reduce la absorción de grasas aportadas en la dieta. Se utiliza para el tratamiento de la obesidad Estructura química [véase http://www.iqb.es/diccio/o/or.htm#orlistat] Monografía [véase… …   Diccionario médico

  • orlistat — /örˈli stat/ noun An orally administered drug that reduces the absorption of dietary fat by inhibiting the action of enzymes in the digestive system, used to treat obesity …   Useful english dictionary

  • Orlistat — Strukturformel Allgemeines Freiname Orlistat …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Orlistat — Orlistạt,   Xenicạl®, Hemmstoff fettspaltender Enzyme (Lipasen), der im Magen Darm Kanal den Abbau von Fetten zu resorbierbaren Monoglyceriden und Fettsäuren verhindert und dadurch zur Gewichtsreduktion führt. Die nicht resorbierten Fette (etwa …   Universal-Lexikon

  • orlistat — noun A drug designed to treat obesity Syn: Xenical …   Wiktionary

  • orlistat — or·li·stat ȯr li stat n a pancreatic lipase inhibitor C29H53NO5 that prevents the digestion of fat and is administered orally in the treatment of obesity see XENICAL * * * n. a drug that reduces the absorption of fat in the stomach and small… …   Medical dictionary

  • orlistat — n. a drug that reduces the absorption of fat in the stomach and small intestine by inhibiting the action of pancreatic lipases. It is administered by mouth in the treatment of clinical obesity, in conjunction with appropriate dietary measures.… …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • orlistat — /ˈɔləstæt/ (say awluhstat) noun an anti obesity drug which inhibits gastrointestinal lipase, the enzyme required for the digestion of fat …   Australian English dictionary