- David Gutierrez
The number of children in the United Kingdom taking prescription weight loss drugs increased by 15 times between 1999 and 2006, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University College London and published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.
"This rise in the use of drugs is a real indictment on society," said Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum. "It seems to me that we are ignoring measures to prevent our children becoming obese and then turning to drugs as a treatment of choice when they should be a last resort. That borders on criminal because it means that all the messages about healthy eating and exercise for reducing weight are just being tossed aside by [doctors]."
As many as 1,300 children under the age of 18 may now be taking the drugs, which are only approved for adults. Adult use exceeds one million.
The study also found that among children who took weight loss drugs, most stopped using them before experiencing any benefit.
"It's possible that the drugs are being given inappropriately, or that they have excessive side-effects that make young people discontinue their use," researcher Russell Viner said. "On the other hand, they could be expecting the drugs to deliver a miracle 'quick fix' and stop using them when sudden, rapid weight-loss does not occur."
Fry said that juvenile use of weight loss drugs will probably increase with the recent approval of Alli, an over-the-counter version of the weight loss drug Xenical, for sale in the United Kingdom. He blamed the childhood obesity crisis on excessive food intake, caused in part by poor regulation of the food industry, combined with a shortage of open spaces where children can exercise and play. Drugs, he said, will not solve the problem.
"It's the failure to regulate the energy in and the energy out," Fry said. "[Children] are failing to exercise enough to maintain the balance."
Sources for this story include: news.bbc.co.uk.