A new study from a highly respected pharmacologist and University of Rhode Island researcher has found that the over-the-counter diet drug Alli, also known as orlistat or Xenical, can lead to serious kidney and liver damage, causing what the study describes as "severe toxicity of internal organs such as the liver and kidney." The damage is irreversible and can be caused by a low level of the drug.
Further, Professor Bingfang Yan's research found that Alli’s metabolic action reduces the effectiveness of many cancer-fighting medications, including some that could otherwise be lifesaving. In fact, the researchers reported that cancer cells multiplied faster under the influence of Alli.
Orlistat, which was originally approved by the FDA in 1999 as the prescription drug Xenical, has become the most popular and commonly used medicine to treat obesity for more than a decade, Yan said. It was approved in 2007 as an over-the-counter medication and called Alli.
"Since it has been available over-the-counter, there has been a drastic increase of toxicity among patients using the drug," Yan said to Science Daily. "It has been linked to severe liver failure, acute pancreatic failure and acute renal (kidney) failure."
Yan said orlistat works in the intestinal tract by preventing fat from being absorbed by the body. It is generally accepted that the drug remains in the intestine and that the body does not absorb it.
"But orlistat is reportedly absorbed, and certainly internal organs such as the liver and kidney are exposed to this drug upon absorption," he said.