04 Jan 2006, 05:15:26 PM

Reporter: Dr John D'Arcy

With numerous weight-loss pills on the market, it can be difficult to choose between them, especially when they promise miraculous transformations.

In the desperate search for ways to drop kilos, people are spending $50 million a year, on highly promoted weight loss pills, potions and powders that don't work.

"There are lot of products out there where we have no clinical evidence, we have claims we have no way of checking claims, we are not sure if they are safe or not!" Herbalist and pharmacist Gerald Quigley says, making an informed choice is hard because scientifically proven weight loss products are true medicines, aren't freely available and can't be advertised and displayed in the pharmacy. The result? People waste money on the unproven stuff and we are talking about a lot of money!

"Well, I got to about 98 kilos when I was nineteen years old." You might find it hard to believe that 25 year old Fonda Rowland almost topped a hundred kilos at such an early age. "I lived in a small town and everybody talking about me and my weight gain and it was such a big deal to them - it was very upsetting."

"People need to determine if they are carrying weight by simply looking at their middle." 7.5 million Australians are overweight and Dietician Geraldine Georgeou sees them every day. "If they've got extra mid-riff or they've got extra jiggly bits then thats a concern because hard fat around the middle is dangerous fat."

Diabetes, heart disease and arthritis! We all know the consequences of overweight; but for young women like Fonda that extra flab carries another problem.

"Can you believe? Polycystic ovaries and infertility are major concerns as well!"

Hoping for a fast solution, Fonda believed the advertising of untested medications she was reading, in magazines and new papers. "Some particular medications I took gave me migraines which crippled me for days and then I couldn't do anything anyway - I couldn't do any exercise... and I couldn't sleep."

Fonda was on the medical merry-go-round. Going nowhere until her health advisor suggested Xenical.

"I didn't know what was in food. I didn't realise that eating certain foods would really pack the weight on" says Fonda.

Xenical is a medication that stops 30% of the fat you eat being absorbed. When used with a low fat calorie controlled diet and exercise it dramatically assists weight loss.

"It wasn't until I used Xenical that it helped me eliminate certain foods from my diet and then that worked. I lost the weight" says Fonda.

"If we want to get people down to the safe limit then Xenical is the best option. It encourages people to modify their diet to modify their life style and the exciting thing is you can eat as much as you want as long as you cut down on the fat component." Gerald Quigley, wants to spread the word so people can increase their choices to include this evidence based medicine. "Its been medically trialed...140 trials with 48,000 people thats not a bad trial base."

The trouble is, its not available on chemists shelves, people must ask their pharmacist and many don't ask.

"We could clearly offer it to our customers and our patients in the box and on the shelf and involve ourselves in a discussion of weight loss... not have it hidden away where the patient thinks its strong and not safe" says Quigley.

Meanwhile Fonda is delighted with her Xenical weight loss. She has dropped to 75 kilograms and her target is 70.

Xenical can be bought over the counter at all local chemists.