September 2, 2009 / 11:06 PM / in 10 years

UK kids taking fat pills up 15 fold in 8 yrs-study

* Number being prescribed fat pills up 15 fold 1999-2006

* Study calls for more research into the effects

* In the UK the drugs are only licensed for adults

* Side effects mean many stop taking the pills

LONDON, Sept 3 (Reuters) - The number of young people in the UK taking anti-obesity pills has risen 15 fold in the past 8 years, a study has shown, prompting researchers to underline the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and call for further tests to be done.

A study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology on Thursday estimates that about 1,300 young people in the UK are currently being prescribed the tablets, even though they are not approved for under-18s in the country.

“The key message is that the pill is not magic, the pill is only part of a holistic approach including diet and exercise, said Ian Wong, the lead author of the study.

The drugs work by helping to stop the body absorbing fat, meaning that people can have unpleasant side effects if they do not change their diet at the same time, he said.

The study called for further research into the safety and efficacy of anti-obesity drugs in children and adolescents because of the increase in the numbers taking the drugs.

More than three quarters are getting orlistat, marketed as Xenical by Roche ROG.VX and as Alli by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L), according to the study.

Reporting by Ben Deighton; editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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