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Official figures released show that NHS spending on anti-obesity medications has risen dramatically in the last decade.
According to the figures, spending on anti-obesity medication such as orlistat, marketed as Xenical, hit £46.8million in 2009, compared to £6.6million spent in 2000. Xenical, which works by preventing 30% of consumed fat from being absorbed into the body, is currently the only medication that is still available on prescription to treat obesity, as the other two popular medications, Reductil and Acomplia, were withdrawn due to concerns over side effects. Between 2000 and 2009, the number of prescriptions being issued for these kinds of medications also increased, from 157,000 to 1.45million.
A recent poll undertaken by the Co-Operative Pharmacy revealed that an increasing number of young people are seeking treatment for obesity due to mockery over their weight. This is a particular problem for women. The Co-Operative Pharmacy also reported an increase of two-thirds in just one year in their sales of anti-obesity medications. According to a spokesman from the Department of Health, quoted in the Daily Telegraph, “[t]he rise in the number of prescription items reflects, in part, the problem of obesity in adults.” The spokesman also emphasises that medications like Xenical are only prescribed after a regime of diet and exercise have been tried with little effect.
The NHS also spends a similar amount - approximately £50millin - on obesity surgery, which includes gastric bands and gastric bypass operations. The numbers of these surgeries taking place has also increased in a similar time frame, from 198 to 7,214.