Prescribing Advice for GPs

An NHS Prescribing Advisers' Blog

Orlistat stock shortage [updated]

The manufacturer of orlistat (Xenical®) has written to healthcare professionals advising that there is a stock shortage of this product.

The shortage is due to manufacturing issues and the manufacturer has now exhausted supplies in their distribution centres. There are likely to be some supplies currently in the wholesaler chain and on pharmacy shelves. The letter does not give an explicit indication when supplies will resume but the manufacturer states it "will issue further communications over the next few weeks".

Action: Clinicians should be aware of this expected shortage. Alternative treatment options are limited so it may be prudent to limit new initiations and to advise existing patient to try alternative outlets when caching prescriptions.

Update: The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee have reported on this same issue but have noted that generic alternatives are available. This may limit any impact of this shortage.

Update 2: As of 21 March 2012, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee have added an update to their site advising that Xenical® is expected to be out of stock for several months.

Update 3: As of 31 July 2012, the manufacturer of orlistat announced that corrective actions are now being taken to manufacture and re-supply to the market as quickly as possible. A further update will be made at the end of August although this will not necessarily mean supplies return at that time.

Update 4: On the 31st of August the manufacturer of orlistat stated that "Stocks of Xenical will be available at wholesalers AAH Pharmaceuticals and Alliance Healthcare Ltd by Wednesday 5th September 2012." So, supplies should be here soon but bear in mind it will take a little while longer for the stock to move from wholesalers to individual pharmacies and that back orders may result in continued supply problems until the supply situation stabilises again.

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271 Comments to “Orlistat stock shortage [updated]”

  1. Important note from the blog author:

    It is with regret that I have closed this post to further comments. I felt this was the most appropriate step to stop a recent trend in comments advertising alternative products that have, in my opinion, not been properly clinically tested. Please do not cross post your comments under other post as they will be deleted on sight.

    For further updates about product availability please check with your local pharmacist. I will also update the information above when I learn of anything.

    Comment by Matthew Robinson — June 27, 2012 #

  2. I have been waiting since the begining of March 2012 to get orlistat. I have gained over four stone in weight due to medication that I am taking. This is my only hope for me to lose some weight. I suffer from depression and this has just got me down even more! Hopefully there will be a light at the end of this tunnel!!

    Comment by Dawn — June 26, 2012 #

    1. Just prescribed it today to discover there was a supply issue. Also suffer from depression and changes tablet has seen me put on 2 stone in weight since last year. Restricted for 1400 calories for 4 weeks to prove the medication was contributing to weight and now discover after all the hard work not only have I not lost much weight but the promise of a medication that should help is now off the cards.

      Comment by T McKee — June 27, 2012 #

  3. Really had enough, the doctors seem to help and support people who smoke or have drug addiction more than people who generally struggle with weight issues.
    The government should be looking into this in my opinion, funny how America has the drug available!

    Comment by Lozza — June 26, 2012 #

    1. I lost 3 stones when on orlistat and GP said she would prescribe them for me but chemists have no stock. I would be grateful if u could update me on the situation. Thank you

      Comment by Linda Cavanagh — June 27, 2012 #

  4. Getting a bit cheesed off now having no prescription of orlistat for nearly 5 months.......all we want is help or answers. My doc knows full well about the shortage and is highly frustrated but the chemists around don't seem to ave a clue what they're on about. All I want is to get another 2 stone off after already losing 4 and half stone on orlistat 🙁

    Comment by Lindsey — June 26, 2012 #

  5. I have been prescribed Orlistat 120mg after trying almost every Diet in an effort to loose weight. Over the past 30 years I have been on a constant diet of one sort or another. Became a vegetarian, cut out Meat, Choc, all fried Foods, White Bread, Biscuits etc , Snack Foods, Sweets and eat only low fat Dairy products. I am aged 51 and have gone through 6 months of tests on my Liver, after being led to believe thinking I had a Fatty Liver. I have not and my weight is now my biggest problem... It gets me down when I try so hard to loose weight and cannot. The doctor has decided I have a slow metabolism and has suggested we try Orlistat before they resort to surgery I do not want as I do not have a compulsive eating habit. 🙁 I an 8 stone overweight and so the Doctors have prescribed Orlistat. I've been taking it for 6 weeks and have lost 5lb in weight....but for me who has never lost any weight it's a start. I have spent the last 3 weeks visiting Chemists over a 20 mile radius trying to get the Pills... with no luck. Having looked at Alli's Facebook page I am astounded to see you can buy these Pills over the counter and from what I can see... millions of people do! They have a lot of medical side effects and I believe you should be monitored on these Pills. I feel they should only be offered on Prescription. It is very hard when you have to take these Pills for serious health reasons only to find they are unavailable to those who really do need them, because people are buying them in bulk over the counter to assist a Bikini Diet plan or use to stop themselves gaining weight! I have been told I may not be able to get them until Nov!!

    Comment by Annie — June 25, 2012 #

  6. Why are docs still prescribing this if they know about the shortage???
    I've had my script for a month now as this is my last but one resort other than surgery to lose weight. I can't afford to buy alli even it was in the shops. Living off 1500 calories a day for a year now and still overweight an suffering with depression now 🙁

    Comment by Sarah — June 24, 2012 #

    1. @Sarah,

      I think you answered your own questions. Clearly the doctors who are still prescribing orlistat are unaware of the problems with supply. As I've commented before, doctors are not involved directly in the supply of medication to patients so they will only be aware of the issue if they are told or read about it somewhere.

      Comment by Matthew Robinson — June 25, 2012 #

  7. My pharmacy have told me August/September

    Comment by Kathy — June 24, 2012 #

  8. I was just prescribed orlistat and found out at the pharmacy when trying to get hold of the drug. Phoned my Dad as he works as a supply manager for a pharma supply company, he says that it shows the expected resumption of supplies as early September on his database, no extra information, which apparently they would normally have. Sounds like the manufacturers are keeping whatever is happening very close to their chest.

    Comment by Tom — June 22, 2012 #

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