GPs blamed as use of diet pills soars

The number of men and women using diet pills to lose weight has reached a record high, the latest figures reveal, and critics have suggested that GPs are increasingly using the drugs as "quick fixes' for obese patients.

Diet pill prescriptions soar
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Almost 1.5 million diet pill prescriptions were issues in 2009, more than 11 times the number written in 1999, and it is estimated that the annual cost to the Health Service is £47 million.

Currently the only anti-obesity pill available for GPs to prescribe is Orlistat, a drug which hit the market in 1998. Doctors say pills are only issued as a last resort for patients who have failed in their previous attempts to lose weight.

But some say anti-obesity drugs are issued too easily.

Dr Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, told the Daily Mail: "NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence),which should be used as a gold standard, says pills should be second on the list of anti-obesity actions and that exercise and healthy eating should be the first.

"The problem with that, however, is that it takes such a long time to see the effects that many doctors are reverting to pills as a first course of action followed up rapidly by bariatric surgery (gastric banding or a gastric bypass)."

However, Dr Clare Gerada, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, insisted that while GPs always suggest healthy eating and regular exercise, some patients "need additional help".

She added that it is better for obese patients to try prescribed weight-loss drugs rather than over-the-counter alternatives in order that they receive clinical support and are fully aware of the potential risks.

What do you think? Are doctors too quick to turn to weight-loss drugs or are they an invaluable tool in the fight against obesity? Leave your comments below...