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Surge in child obesity drugs

Thursday September 3rd, 2009

Rising rates of child obesity have led to hundreds of children receiving drugs that should only be given to adults, experts warned today.

As many as 1,300 children and young people are now prescribed anti-obesity drugs each year - although the drugs are not licensed for paediatric use.

Many children take the drugs for just three months - and probably do not achieve permanent loss of weight, according to the study in the British Journal of Pharmacology.

Researcher Professor Ian Wong said it was important to explain the effects of the drugs if they are being prescribed to children.

The researchers studied records of general practice, covering about five per cent of the British population.

They found that since 1999 prescriptions of the drugs to children and teenagers increased 15 times, reaching nearly one in 10,000 by 2006. More than 75 per cent received the drug orlistat and most stopped using it after three months.

The researchers from University College London, UK, say it is unlikely the drugs are doing any damage - and say that probably children stopped taking orlistat because of the unpleasant side effects. The drug prevents absorption of fat.

Professor Wong, professor of paediatric medicines research, said: "You have to tell them that, yes, it is healthier not to absorb the fat, but if they continue to eat as much as they used to then it will be really unpleasant.

"The key thing is that the drug itself is not the answer. Kids should only be using it as part of a comprehensive weight-loss programme."

His colleague Dr Russell Viner added: "It's possible that the drugs are being given inappropriately, or that they have excessive side effects that make young people discontinue their use.

"On the other hand they could be expecting the drugs to deliver a miracle 'quick fix' and stop using them when sudden, rapid weight loss does not occur."

British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. (2009). 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2009.03528.x

Tags: Child Health | Fitness | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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