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Prescribing Advice for GPs

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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. Any news on orlistat / xenical in West Yorkshire area? Still none since Feb!!!

    Comment by MrsC — June 20, 2012 #

    1. Same as South Yorkshire, the pharmacies don't even know when

      Comment by lheath — June 21, 2012 #

  2. 6/19 UPDATE: This was posted by Alli on its official Facebook page this morning: “Great news, we are excited to share that alli has shipped to store warehouses! We apologize for any inconvenience this supply issue has caused and you can rest assured that alli product is on its way back to your local retailer’s shelf. Our locator tool will be available soon to help you find alli in stores near you – so we can once again fight fat together.” The drug will not be reformulated and again, there was no recall. I will update this page as soon as Alli is available to purchase online. 

    Comment by Jayne — June 20, 2012 #

  3. Thanks for the tip, also just bought from there, after reading your comment Tony I called them up to check availability, the Pharmadoctor customer service says the pharmacy managed to get a small supply, didn't call the pharmacy since I do not have a prescription so had to go through the online prescription service, more expensive but my doctor won't prescribe now due to the shortage. Hope to have my meds soon!

    Comment by Anna — June 15, 2012 #

    1. I looked into the shortage of orlistat a couple of weeks ago. There are attempts in the US to get the FDA to ban the drug as there have been fatalities from bowel cancer linked to the drug. There are a couple of sites with quite shocking testimonials from persons who are very ill- they all link same to the drug. I think this may be the reason the entire world's supply has dried up. The question is could these people have developed tumors regardless of their taking orlistat. Why else would a pharma company stop producing such a lucrative drug and give such a ridiculous bland excuse as "manufacturing problems". The fact that two different companies Roche (xenical) and GSK (Alli) have stopped producing the same drug albeit in different strengths is very sinister indeed.

      Comment by Elizabeth — June 17, 2012 #

      1. Just an addendum to above. It was primarily severe liver damage over bowel problems that the FDA was examining

        Comment by Elizabeth — June 17, 2012 #

      2. @Elizabeth,

        I have never known a drug to go out of stock due to a safety issue. Regulatory agencies around the world and drug manufacturers openly report any safety concerns.

        You are right in the respect that orlistat has been linked with liver damage (NOT bowel cancer). This information is openly available on the FDA website. Of particular note in that information is the following:

        • 13 cases of severe liver injury associated with orlistat were reported between April 1999 and August 2009 out of an estimated 40 million people worldwide who have used the drug
        • Some patients in the reported cases also used other drugs or had other conditions that may have contributed to the development of severe liver injury
        • Severe liver injury can occur in people not taking drugs and without a distinct cause

        Comment by Matthew Robinson — June 17, 2012 #

      3. I have taken Xenical for 4 years now ...I had severe IBS until then which I had suffered all my life. Countless different drugs, diets etc but I suffered badly until prescribed Xenical. The bonus for me was losing weight too but I never had a twinge or a single problem with IBS from then on until this shortage. Now I am back to being doubled over in pain, bloated, compacted bowel the works. I desperately need Xenical, so if they need further testing PLEASE let me be a guinea pig!!

        Comment by Jude Green — June 19, 2012 #

  4. Hi all, have bought orlistat today 🙂 !!! http://www.pharmadoctor.co.uk/total-index.php

    Comment by helen — June 14, 2012 #

    1. It says on their website that they do not have any stock. How did you manage to get some?

      Comment by Tony — June 14, 2012 #

      1. Edit: I see them now. This site safe to use?

        Comment by Tony — June 14, 2012 #

        1. I called up their customer service as I am quite wary myself - they are in the UK and answered all my questions about legality etc. I should have my orlistat tomorrow! Good luck to everyone!

          Comment by helen — June 14, 2012 #

          1. Thanks Helen.

            The site is saying:

            Total Pharmacy Are currently out of stock of both Xenical and Generic Orlistat. We are no longer accepting any order requests for either of these products

            But they are accepting orders for generic orlistat. Did they say on the phone if they had stock?

            Comment by Tony — June 14, 2012 #

    2. Got some delivered yesterday. Thank you very much for the link Helen.

      Comment by Tony — June 19, 2012 #

  5. As above, I've also managed to get hold of some.
    The pharmacy had my prescription for approx a month & I went to collect them this morning.

    Comment by Stacey — June 14, 2012 #

    1. Do we think this is just pharmacies which had some stock sitting for months, or have they managed to get some in from somewhere?

      Comment by Tony — June 14, 2012 #

    2. Which pharmacy is this because everywhere I've attempted to get orlistat from is out of stock and I've had none now for five months.

      Comment by ally — June 15, 2012 #

  6. Hi
    Just wanted to let people know that I managed to get some in Southampton yesterday. I've been without for over 10 weeks so really please. Hope the rest of you manage to get some soon.

    Comment by Clare — June 14, 2012 #

    1. Hi, which chemist did you get them from, I live in Weymouth, but willing to travel. Haven't had any for 2 months now

      Comment by Teresa — June 15, 2012 #

  7. I do not believe that a drug company can have problems regarding manufacture. They don't have problems producing other medications. I'm am of the opinion it is probably cheaper for the Government to pay a company to withhold the drug than it is for them to allow GPs to prescribe. If it comes back it will probably be on a private prescription only, with a listing that will only make available to the more affluent in the community.

    Comment by corkin — June 13, 2012 #

    1. @corkin,

      What complete nonsense! This drug has just gone generic which means the price will plummet by 90%. Can you explain why the government would enter into your fantasy agreement at this point in time and not at any point in the last decade while the drug has been freely available at a higher cost?

      Comment by Matthew Robinson — June 13, 2012 #

  8. Really disappointed with the lack of info on this, also, I cannot get a straight answer as to whether there is anything to worry about having taken orlistat for a year. Why will they not tell us?

    Comment by tina — June 13, 2012 #

    1. @tina,

      There have been updates but only along the lines that supply remains unavailable and an update will be given at a future date. In terms of worries about safety there are no concerns at all about the quality or safety of any product that has been dispensed to patients. The issue at hand seems to be assuring the same level of quality and safety in future supplies of the product.

      Comment by Matthew Robinson — June 13, 2012 #

  9. Just prescribed a script for orlistat last night, since then been ringing round all chemists to no avail. Surely my GP should have been aware that this medication was not available. Contacted GP who states no alternative. I was prescribed orlistat due to my diabetic medication causing weight gain, also had a stroke recently, weight gain is as everyone knows a cause of heart attacks, so what do I do sit back and wait for a further stroke or possibly a heart attack while the manufacturers do some explaining or a substitute is made available!!!!!

    Comment by diane middlemore — June 12, 2012 #

    1. It's a shocking situation. I cannot believe that patients are being prescribed medication from their GP and not able to get it. I've never heard of anything like this before. Really baffled too how GPs still prescribe this, totally unaware it seems that there is no stock anywhere. The lack of information on this is actually causing worry for many people.

      Comment by Tony — June 12, 2012 #

      1. @Tony,

        I've said this before and I'm sure I'll probably need to say it again at some point but the vast majority of GPs are not involved in any part of the process of supplying medication to patients. With this in mind how are we going to expect them to know what is available and what is out of stock? That is the role of the pharmacist.

        Comment by Matthew Robinson — June 12, 2012 #

    2. @Diane,

      The European medicines regulatory body are in contact with the manufacturers about this supply issue. Until they are satisfied that quality and safety standards are being met supply will not resume. Since there are no alternatives (the two that were available a few years ago were withdrawn from the market because of dangerous and serious side effects). It is also worth noting that, despite some of the many comments on here, the manufacturer has at no time given a date of expected re-supply, they have given dates when they would provide an update - that is all.

      I can only suggest that you try your best to follow a mildly hypo-caloric diet which is a necessary part of using orlistat anyway. You won't lose as much weight but you should lose some.

      Comment by Matthew Robinson — June 12, 2012 #

  10. Hi, like many comments above I had great results in February loosing 2 stone. Since then I have not be able to get my next prescription, which is not good enough and is very disappointing 🙂

    Comment by Darren — June 12, 2012 #

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