There has been a significant increase in sales of weight loss products during the lockdown period, according to new research from The Independent Pharmacy.
As gyms closed and the public was required to stay at home during the UK lockdown (23 March to 15 June 2020), The Independent Pharmacy reported a sales increase of 808.76% and 85.90% for the weight loss drugs Xenical and Orlistat respectively, compared to the previous year.
The online pharmacy examined their website traffic, revenue and Google Trends search data to build an understanding of how restrictions on daily activity affected the UK’s health during the pandemic, in light of the government's latest anti-obesity drive. The research also revealed:
- 119.47% increase in total sales for weight loss products during lockdown
- 163.13% increase in new users viewing weight loss advice pages on The Independent Pharmacy site during the same period
- 116.92% increase in new user views of the Xenical product page on the The Independent Pharmacy website
Scott McDougall (MPharm), co-founder and registered manager of The Independent Pharmacy, says:
“48% of people say they have put on weight during lockdown, according to a King’s College London study, and it’s scary to think that many of these people may be resorting to weight loss medication or supplements for a quick fix.
“While legitimate online pharmacies would never prescribe weight loss medicine unless a patient met the required criteria, there is a risk that individuals might look to unreliable or dangerous information, or even unlicensed diet pills for a fast weight loss solution. In the best case scenario, this is ineffective. In the worst case, this can lead to serious long-term damage to one’s health, and can even be fatal.”
Furthermore, the research also found that during lockdown, there was a surge in interest for general weight loss advice. Google search trends data revealed that interest in the term ‘lose weight fast’ increased by 115% online during this period.
McDougall continues: “It’s important that people are able to access safe and reliable weight loss advice, backed by science and qualified healthcare professionals. Rather than looking to fad diets, anyone seeking to lose weight should eat sensibly and exercise regularly. While weight loss drugs do work, they should only be considered when all other avenues have been exhausted – and even then, reputable online pharmacies will only prescribe the medication if a patient meets the criteria after a thorough health assessment.”
This report comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson formally announces the government’s strategy to reduce the UK’s obesity rates. While it’s positive that many people eligible to take weight loss medication are coming forward to speak with qualified pharmacists, there is concern that the knowledge of obesity increasing risks from Covid-19 could scaremonger some people into buying illegitimate weight loss drugs in a bid to quickly lose weight.