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Quick summary

Type of medicine

Lipase Inhibitor



Active Ingredient


Effective within

Within a few weeks.

Works by

Blocking fat absorption in the digestive system.

Side effects

Oily spotting, oily stools, flatulence, frequent bowel movements and stomach discomfort.

Medication details


Orlistat is a weight loss medication that helps individuals reduce the amount of fat absorbed from the diet. It works by blocking the action of a digestive enzyme called lipase, which is responsible for breaking down fat in the intestines. By reducing the amount of fat absorbed, Orlistat helps people achieve and maintain weight loss. It is intended for use in combination with a reduced-calorie diet and regular physical activity. This medication is typically prescribed for people who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, or for those with a BMI of 27 or more and additional weight-related health problems. It is not recommended for individuals who are pregnant or nursing.


Follow your doctor's instructions carefully when taking Xenical. The typical dosage involves consuming one 120 mg capsule with each of your three main meals daily. You can take the capsule immediately before, during, or up to one hour after your meal. Remember to swallow the capsule whole with water. To maximize its effectiveness, it's important to maintain a well-balanced, calorie-controlled diet rich in fruits and vegetables, distributing your daily intake of fat, carbohydrates, and protein over three meals. Xenical works in the presence of dietary fat, so if a meal doesn't contain fat or if you miss a main meal, you can skip that particular dose.


Each Xenical capsule contains 120 mg of orlistat as its active ingredient. The capsules also contain other components such as microcrystalline cellulose, sodium starch glycolate, povidone, sodium laurilsulfate, and talc. The capsule shell is composed of gelatine, indigo carmine, titanium dioxide, and edible printing ink.

Side Effects

Orlistat can cause several side effects primarily related to its fat-blocking action. These include oily or fatty stools, urgent bowel movements, and flatulence with discharge. It may also reduce the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, so a multivitamin at bedtime is recommended. Rare but serious side effects include liver injury, indicated by yellowing skin or eyes, and kidney issues such as kidney stones. Always discuss potential risks with your healthcare provider to ensure safe usage.


Xenical is contraindicated in individuals who are allergic to orlistat or any other ingredients present in the medication. It is also not recommended if you have chronic malabsorption syndrome, cholestasis (liver disorder), or are breastfeeding. Weight loss may affect the dose of other medications you are taking, and you should discuss potential adjustments with your doctor. Xenical's use may lead to changes in bowel habits, and it is essential to follow a nutrition program as recommended by your doctor. The medication may interact with certain drugs and may unbalance anticonvulsant treatment, leading to convulsions. Pregnant and breastfeeding individuals should avoid Xenical.

Medically reviewed and published

  • This page was medically reviewed by Dr Sohaib Imtiaz, Clinical Lead on Apr 18, 2024, 3:30 pm

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Please read our FAQs page to find out more.

How does Orlistat work?

Orlistat inhibits the action of lipase enzymes, preventing the breakdown and absorption of dietary fats. This results in reduced calorie intake.

How should Orlistat be taken?

Orlistat is typically administered three times daily alongside meals that include fat. If you miss a meal or consume one without fat, you can omit that dose of Orlistat.

Can I take Orlistat while pregnant or breastfeeding?

Orlistat is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new medication in these conditions.

Will Orlistat help me lose weight on its own?

Orlistat aids in weight loss when combined with a diet low in calories and fats, plus regular exercise. It prevents your body from absorbing a portion of the fat from your meals. However, it's not effective on its own; adopting healthy lifestyle habits is crucial for it to work as part of a broader weight management plan.

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