Generic name: Orlistat
Why is this medication prescribed?
Orlistat is used with a low-calorie diet to help you lose weight and to maintain your weight after weight loss. Orlistat is used in patients with a certain weight who may also have high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, or heart disease.
Orlistat is in a class of drugs called lipase inhibitors. It works in your intestines, where it blocks some of the fat you eat from being absorbed and disgested. This undigested fat is then removed in your bowel movements (BM).
This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
How should this medicine be used?
Orlistat comes as a capsule to take by mouth. It is usually taken three times a day with each main meal that contains fat. Each time you take orlistat, your meal should contain no more than about 30% of calories from fat. Take orlistat during or up to 1 hour after a meal. If a meal is missed or does not have fat, you may skip your dose. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take orlistat exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
What special precautions should I follow?
Before taking orlistat,
- tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to orlistat or any other drugs.
- tell your doctor and pharmacist what prescription and nonprescription drugs you are taking, especially anticoagulants (''blood thinners'') such as warfarin (Coumadin); medications for diabetes, such as glipizide (Glucotrol), glyburide (DiaBeta, Dynase, Micronase), metformin (Glucophage), and insulin; other medications for weight loss; pravastatin (Pravachol); vitamins such as beta-carotene and vitamins A, E, and K; and herbal products. If you are taking cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), take it 2 hours before or 2 hours after orlistat.
- tell your doctor if you have or have ever had anorexia nervosa or bulimia, gallstones, thyroid disease, diabetes, kidney problems, or if you consistently have problems absorbing food (malabsorption syndrome).
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding.
What special dietary instructions should I follow?
Follow the diet program your doctor has given you. You should evenly divide your daily intake of fat, carbohydrates, and protein over three main meals. If orlistat is taken with a meal very high in fat (30% total daily calories from fat), you may experience more side effects from the medication.
Orlistat blocks your body's uptake of some fat-soluble vitamins and beta carotene. Therefore, when you use orlistat you should take a daily multivitamin supplement that contains vitamins A, E, K, and beta-carotene. Take the vitamin once a day, 2 hours before or 2 hours after taking orlistat, or take the vitamin at bedtime.
To help you get started on reducing the fat in your diet to about 30%, read the labels on all the foods you buy. While you are taking orlistat, you should avoid foods that have more than 30% fat. When eating meat, poultry (chicken) or fish, eat only 2 or 3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards). Choose lean cuts of meat and remove the skin from poultry. Fill up your meal plate with more grains, fruits, and vegetables. Replace whole-milk products with nonfat or 1% milk and reduced- or low-fat dairy items. Cook with less fat. Use vegetable oil spray when cooking. Salad dressings; many baked items; and prepackaged, processed, and fast foods are usually high in fat. Use the low- or non-fat versions of these foods and/or cut back on serving sizes. When dining out, ask how foods are prepared and request that they be prepared with little or no added fat.
What should I do if I forget a dose?
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember it unless it is more than 1 hour since you ate a main meal. If it is longer than 1 hour since you ate a main meal, skip the missed dose and continue on your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
What side effects can this medication cause?
The most common side effect of orlistat is changes in bowel movement (BM) habits. This generally occurs during the first weeks of treatment; however, it may continue throughout your use of orlistat. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- oily, spotting BMs
- gas with discharge
- urgent need to have a BM
- oily or fatty stools
- an oily discharge
- increased number of BMs
- inability to control BMs
- orange or brown color of a BM
- stomach pain
- irregular menstrual periods
If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- redness of skin
- skin rash or hives
- chest pain
- difficulty breathing
What storage conditions are needed for this medicine?
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.
What other information should I know?
Keep all appointments with your doctor. Read the patient information before starting treatment with orlistat and each time you refill the medication.
You should also follow a program of regular physical activity, such as walking. However, before you start any new activity or exercise program, talk with your doctor or health care professional.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 May 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.