LONDON, April 20 /PRNewswire/ -- The launch of anti-obesity drug orlistat as a pharmacy medicine this week is a step in the right direction for patients needing effective weight-management care and expert advice, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) said today.

Pharmacists now have the ability to dispense orlistat after conducting a comprehensive consultation with a patient, a move the RPSGB's Director of Policy, David Pruce, said gave the public convenient access to a proven weight-loss aid.

We totally support the move to make orlistat available to patients from pharmacists without a prescription. Increasingly, pharmacists are offering a greater spectrum of life-style advice, including blood-pressure monitoring, smoking cessation programmes and vascular checks. With orlistat, pharmacists have another service which they can offer to complement existing weight-management advice and treatments.

It is important to remember orlistat is not a magic bullet. Patients taking the medicine also need to be committed to following a balanced diet and moderate exercise regime in order to benefit.

David Pruce said pharmacists were highly visible in their communities and, given they were able to reach people who did not regularly see a GP, were ideally placed to tackle the country's growing obesity problem.

Research has shown that the vast majority of the public has easy access to pharmacies, with 99 per cent of the population able to reach a community pharmacy by car, by walking or by public transport within 20 minutes.

David Pruce said pharmacists had been given comprehensive training material in anticipation of orlistat's availability as a pharmacy medicine.

The guidance the Society has developed sets out the criteria by which orlistat can be dispensed and important points for pharmacists to consider when counter prescribing; along with information on how it works, how it should be taken and specific interactions with other medicines.

Notes to Editors

Orlistat - Obesity is a major health concern in the UK, accounting for 30,000 deaths each year - Orlistat, known commercially as alli, is available over the counter in a 60mg formulation - half the strength of that prescribed by doctors - Pharmacists will assess patients' suitability for orlistat by measuring Body Mass Index

(BMI); adults with a BMI of 28 or more will be considered suitable for the treatment.

About the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) is the professional and regulatory body for pharmacists in England, Scotland and Wales. It also regulates pharmacy technicians on a voluntary basis, which is expected to become statutory under anticipated legislation.

The primary objectives of the RPSGB are to lead, regulate, develop and represent the profession of pharmacy. The RPSGB leads and supports the development of the profession within the context of the public benefit. This includes the advancement of science, practice, education and knowledge in pharmacy. In addition, it promotes the profession's policies and views to a range of external stakeholders in a number of different forums.

Following the publication in 2007 of the Government White Paper Trust, Assurance and Safety

- The Regulation of Health Professionals in the 21st Century, the RPSGB is working towards the demerger of its regulatory and professional roles. This will see the establishment of a new General Pharmaceutical Council and a new professional body for pharmacy in 2010.

For media enquiries please contact the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain's Public Relations Unit on +44(0)20-7572-2336