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What Is Orlistat?

Orlistat is in a drug class called Lipase Enzyme Inhibitor. It works by reducing fat absorption into the body. Orlistat is available in 2 strengths, 120mg and 60mg and can only be obtained through doctor’s prescription.

Why Is Orlistat Needed?

Orlistat is indicated for treatment of obesity and it is a long term treatment (maximum 2 years). Orlistat is given to obese patients who fail to reduce weight after 6 months of following healthy diet and exercise.

Apart from that, treatment using Orlistat is given to obese patient who has:

    1. Body Mass Index (BMI) between 25 and 27.5 kg/m2 and have 2 of these diseases/conditions:
      • Diabetes
      • Heart Disease
      • Diseases which affects brain function (eg: heart attack/stroke)
      • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
      • Hyperlipidaemia (high fat content in body)
      • Waist circumference more than 90 cm for male and 80 cm for female


    1. BMI more/equal to 27.5 kg/m2


  1. Symptomatic complications of obesity such as severe ostheoarthritis (joint pain), difficulty in breathing whilst sleeping and oesophagus inflammation (patient has difficulty to swallow, nausea, vomiting and heartburn)

Doctors will only consider starting treatment using drugs after evaluating the risks and benefits to patients. Careful monitoring and advice by healthcare professionals especially in terms of drug reaction during treatment, changes in diet and physical activity, psychological support and behavioural intervention can help patients throughout the treatment process.

How Orlistat Acts In The Body?

Lipase enzymes are naturally present in the human body. This enzyme breaks the fat molecule from the food ingested which will then be absorbed into the body.

Orlistat works by disrupting the function of lipase enzyme. This eventually reduces fat molecule being absorbed into the body. The unabsorbed fat molecule will be excreted through stool.

How To Take Orlistat?

Orlistat should be taken 3 times a day before meal or up to an hour after meal.

However, you may skip a dose if your meal does not contain fat. Since Orlistat can reduce the absorption of Vitamin A & E (fat-soluble vitamin) to certain patients, it is advisable to take supplementary vitamin at least 2 hours before or after taking Orlistat. The use of Orlistat for children, pregnant or breastfeeding women is not recommended. Patients who have experienced side effects when taking Orlistat before are not recommended to take it.

Side Effects

  • Oily stools
  • Difficulty controlling bowel movement
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating and stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety

Contact your doctor when you experience:

  1. Itching and rashes
  2. Difficulty in breathing
  3. Loss of appetite
  4. Yellowing of skin and eyes
  5. Dark coloured urine
  6. Light coloured stool
  7. Pain in the upper right of stomach
  8. Always fatigue and weak
  9. Severe stomach pain

Facts That You Should Know

    1. Physical activity or exercise should be done regularly even though you are taking Orlistat. Orlistat only absorbs part of the fat molecule from the food we eat (about one-third). You should also talk to your doctor or health care professional before starting on any physical activity or new exercise.


    1. A healthy diet should be taken while taking Orlistat. You should take 3 main meals which contain daily amount of fat, carbohydrate and protein. Avoid taking food which contains more than 30% of fat. It is important that you check the food label before purchasing and consuming the food.


  1. There is a possibility of gaining the weight again when you stop taking Orlistat. Therefore, you should continue doing regular exercise and eat a healthy diet to maintain your weight.
Last Reviewed : 23 April 2014
Writer : Nor Izyani bt. Hanafi
Reviewer : Norhayati bt. Musa