Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


Yes, I've been away from the blogosphere for a few days. Real life has such an annoying way of interferring with our preferred pastimes, doesn't it? For example, disssecting hairballs.

I've been toting this article about for a few days in my notebook.

Alli, a lower-dose version of the prescription weight loss drug Xenical, will soon be available in a drugstore near you. In the aforementioned article we are told by Drs. Rosebraugh and Frank that Alli has "a safe track record," and that we know "what the safety profile is."

Alli and Xenical work by halting the absoprtion and breakdown of fats in the intestine. Meaning you "pass" the fats--resulting in the common side effects of flatulence, oily stools, diarrhea, and loss of bowel control. Patients able to tolerate Xenical's side effects lose much weight, and become averse to fatty foods much as Pavlov's dogs were trained to salivate at bells.

The folks at GlaxoSmithKline must be jubilant, despite the Public Citizens Health Research Group's protests, citing the drug's potential for pre-cancerous symptoms in the colon. But Dr. Arthur Frank, who served on the Glaxo advisory panel, says "the product has a good safety record."

Over how much time? And how large was the sample population tested?

I will make every attempt to write this gracefully. In a recent blogpost I mentioned my lifelong struggle with digestive tract disease. My problems include severe heartburn, stomach pain, gas pain, and barely controlled diarrhea. In my late twenties I became too ill to work: I was unable to leave the house. I was prescribed Prednisone, Amitryptiline, tincture of opium (talk about stoned...), Lotronex (in its early incarnation, when it killed four women and was yanked off the market), Immuran, an immune system suppressant, and 6MP, a drug used to treat cancer. All to no avail. My doctors were considering feeding me via TPN--tube feeding through the kidneys. Barring that, a full colectomy and a colostomy bag were under serious consideration.

Constant diarrhea irritates your insides--you feel like you've been pipecleanered. All the time. That constant irritation to the colon can lead to abnornal cell proliferation--cancer.

At my sickest I suffered from continuous dehydration and daily episodes of acidosis, a condition where your eletrolytes are out of whack, causing rapid heart rate and panting. I endured this for three years before finding a workable med regime. As you might imagine, I was quite trim.

I share this unpleasant information not to elicit pity or disgust, but by way of illuminating what will happen to millions of citizens once this drug goes over the counter. Even worse, though selling to children is "prohibited," how in hell will anybody be able to stop kids (read: teenage girls) from buying or stealing Alli from stores or parents?

Americans are fat. This is not news. But diet drugs are not the answer; they never have been. Alli will not teach people how to eat properly. It will not prevent people from eating at McDonalds. It will not stop the proliferation of impossible media images. If anything, I can see people looking to Alli as an excuse to gorge, the way bulimics look to vomiting as the perfect way to purge.

And though this will sound insufferably priggish, there is something so damned lazy about turning to drugs to deal with overeating. Yes, there are people who are dangerously obese and need immediate help. There are people who have real health conditions that lead to being overweight. I am not talking about them. I am talking about you and me--the people who nosh chips at work 'cause we're bored, or make three or four coffee-cookie runs from work for the same reason, or sit in front of the television eating pizza and drinking beer because life is difficult and food tastes good.

Our laziness has one benefit: Dr. Arthur Frank and his friends at GlaxoSmithKine are laughing at our appetites all the way to the bank.

Five hairballs.


Anonymous Jade Park said...

Interesting! And have you heard about glucophage, the diabetes drug, being used for weight loss as well? it's getting out of hand!

February 12, 2007 1:54 AM  
Blogger Barking Kitten said...

Ugh! No...glucophage...even the name is awful-sounding!

February 12, 2007 7:12 PM  

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