In the week when a prescription slimming pill is made available over the counter in the UK, authorities in the US are clamping down on 72 weight loss preparations that are sold in the shops.
UK drug regulators have made Alli (orlistat) available in pharmacies, which means overweight people can purchase it without seeing a doctor or needing a prescription. The over-the-counter version is half the strength of the prescription drug, and it will be sold only to adults with a body mass index (BMI) that is over 28, and who agree to go on a low-fat diet.
America's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking a different view of over-the-counter slimming preparations. It has recently updated its list of unproven, and potentially dangerous, products, and now includes 72 preparations that it wants removed from shops in America.
Most of the products claim to be natural, but in fact contain powerful pharmaceuticals such as sibutramine, an appetite suppressant, the antidepressant fluoxetine, the diuretics bumetanide and furosemide, and an anti-seizure medication, phenytoin.
(Source: Journal of the American Medical Association, 2009; 301: 1646).