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Alli, Xenical Linked to Increased Liver, Kidney Damage Risks

Filed December 11th, 2012 Laurie

Popular weight loss drugs Xenical and Alli have been linked to an increased risk of liver damage and kidney damage.

A University of Rhode Island study, led by Bingfan Yan, found that Xenical and Alli can cause “severe toxicity” to major internal organs, Forbes said. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and just published in Biochemical Pharmacology. Yan, a highly respected pharmacologist known for his discoveries of dangerous drug interactions, was so concerned about the risks he saw that he immediately reported it to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). His report to the FDA also said that the metabolic action of the weight loss pills can reduce the effectiveness of other medications, including life-saving cancer treatments, Forbes said.

Yan and his team found that Xenical and Alli—brand names for the drug orlistat—limit the function of an enzyme known as carboxylesterade-2, an important component in detoxifying the liver, kidneys and the entire gastrointestinal tract, Forbes said. The risk of severe toxicity of internal organs increases significantly if the enzyme is prevented from doing its job, Forbes said.

The FDA announced a new customer warning for Alli and Xenical in May 2010 to include the risk of liver toxicity. That warning only references rare reports, though, which is much milder than what the current study found. The information concerning Alli and Xenical and the dangers to the kidneys, liver and gastrointestinal track is considered new, Forbes said.

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