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Over-the-counter orlistat: early experiences, views and attitudes of community pharmacists in Great Britain


Objectives of the study To describe community pharmacists’ early experiences, views and attitudes with over-the-counter orlistat, 9 months post legal re-classification from November 2009 to January 2010. Setting 13,200 (81%) randomly selected registered community pharmacies across Great Britain out of a potential 16,200. Methods A cross-sectional postal questionnaire survey of the main pharmacist with greatest responsibility for over-the-counter (OTC) supply. Main outcome measures Pharmacists’ early experiences, views and attitudes of orlistat supply, demographic data of respondents and personal opinions with the supply of orlistat. Results Questionnaires were returned by 32.4% (n = 4,026) of pharmacists surveyed. Just over half (51.9%, n = 2,091) reported no sales of orlistat in the previous 4 weeks with only 5.1% (n = 203) reporting frequent (5.1%) or very frequent supply in the same time frame. Two thirds (66.5%, n = 2,676) agreed or strongly agreed that the sale of orlistat was a good opportunity to extend their role as a healthcare professional and 92% (n = 3,712) felt confident in their ability to supply this product. Over half (57.9%, n = 2,334) admitted that customers frequently complained about the cost of the product and 47.8% (n = 1,926) agreed that customers could misuse the product. Conclusion Despite community pharmacists welcoming orlistat re-classification to increase medicines availability as an opportunity to extend their healthcare professional role there were concerns about poor public uptake, high cost and the potential for misuse. Exploratory studies collecting the views and experiences of the general public about the access and provision of weight management services through community pharmacies are warranted.

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We would like to acknowledge D. Watt, A. Thomson, R. Walsh, E.L.T. Wong, M. McLean, J. Banks, A. Ali, S. Darcy, J. Flattery, N. Goburdhun, M. Holohan, A. Javeed, L. Adams for assistance with data collection, W Greig for data input and all the community pharmacist respondents for completing questionnaires. The study was funded by Robert Gordon University.


This study is funded by Robert Gordon University, School of Pharmacy and Life Science, Aberdeen.

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The authors declare no conflict of interest. All authors are employed by either Robert Gordon University or Aberdeen University.

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Correspondence to Anita Elaine Weidmann.

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Weidmann, A.E., Cunningham, S., Gray, G. et al. Over-the-counter orlistat: early experiences, views and attitudes of community pharmacists in Great Britain. Int J Clin Pharm 33, 627–633 (2011).

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  • Community pharmacist
  • Great Britain
  • Obesity
  • Orlistat
  • OTC
  • Over-the-counter medicines
  • Pharmacist experience
  • Pharmacist views