Xenical, approved in 1999, is the No. 1 selling prescription weight-loss medication. It works by keeping the body from absorbing fat in food as it digests. The drug should be used "along with a reduced calorie, low-fat diet," according to Glaxo.
The need for weight reduction in the U.S. is well-known. 65% of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, according to the National Institutes of Health. Xenical's website claims that there is clear scientific evidence that losing 5% to 10% of body weight can improve health. In clinical studies, almost two-thirds of subjects using Xenical and the required low-fat diet lost 5% of their body weight in two years. Only one-half achieved that using diet alone.
Last year, Xenical had worldwide sales of $496.6 million -- a disappointing level for a veteran product with only one competitor, the appetite suppressant Meridia from Abbott Labs
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