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Weight Loss

Xenical & Orlistat Comparison: Which Is Better For Weight Loss?

by Andy Boysan (BPharm)

Andy is a co-founder, the superintendent pharmacist and director at The Independent Pharmacy.

As we established in our earlier article, Assessing Orlistat: does it reduce weight?, Orlistat is a drug which stops fat from being absorbed into your body. It is used to treat obesity, and it is currently the only drug to be clinically proven to aid weight loss. 

When searching for Orlistat you may also come across Xenical and find that the two seem to be indistinguishable, with Orlistat often marketed as the generic form of the branded treatment Xenical. Below we help you to tell the difference so that you can decide which is the right option to help you with your weight loss journey.


Overview of Orlistat

Orlistat is actually the name of the active ingredient in both Xenical and Orlistat. In the same way that Nurofen is the brand name of the drug ibuprofen, Orlistat is the drug, while Xenical is a branded version of the drug.   

This is why the generic version of the Xenical weight loss drug is marketed as Orlistat. Orlistat’s ‘generic’ status allows it to be sold at a cheaper price than Xenical.

Here is how Orlistat works, and what it’s currently used for:

  • It is designed to help people who are overweight, or obese, to lose weight.
  • It is available only to the following people:
    • Those with a BMI of 30 or over (clinically obese).
    • Those with a BMI of 28 or over and an additional weight condition, i.e. type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • It reduces weight by preventing around a third of the fat contained in the food you eat from being absorbed by your body. It does not burn fat, and people on Orlistat need to follow a low-fat diet.
  • Xenical comes in capsule form and the usual dosage is 120mg.

Orlistat is a prescription-only treatment in the UK.


Overview of Xenical

Xenical is the branded prescription version of Orlistat. It works in exactly the same way but is more expensive to buy. Xenical is a trademark of Roche. 

Xenical is used to treat exactly the same issues as Orlistat, and it’s available in the same dosage — there is really no difference between the two (except for the price).


Side effects of Orlistat & Xenical

Both weight loss treatments have some potential side effects:

  • Flatulence with an oily discharge.
  • Oily rectal discharge.
  • Fatty or oily faeces.
  • Greater frequency of bowel movements.
  • Requiring an urgent bowel movement.
  • Inability to control bowel movements.


Success with weight loss treatments

In order for Xenical or Orlistat to be successful, you will need to combine your course of medication with a sensible and low-calorie diet, as well as exercising regularly. If you do this, it is possible to lose an average of 10% of your body weight after one year. 


Xenical or Orlistat?

As the branded version of Orlistat, there is no chemical difference Xenical and Orlistat; both are designed do the same thing, have the same side effects and have the same potential success rate. 

Both are available to buy with a prescription and can be bought from a traditional pharmacy, GP surgery or an online pharmacy.   

Xenical is more expensive, Orlistat is cheaper, so you may want to opt for generic Orlistat if budget is a consideration for you.


The question to ask yourself when deciding whether to opt to buy Xenical or Orlistat is as follows: do you wish to purchase a branded version of the drug Orlistat, or do you prefer to buy a non-branded version of the drug? 

If you want to go for the non-branded version then the answer is Orlistat. If you want to go for the branded version then the answer is Xenical. Just remember that, as you might expect, there is a premium on the branded version, so you will pay more for Xenical than you will for Orlistat.

Authored By:

A photo of  Andy Boysan

Andy Boysan


Published on: 28-11-2017

Last modified on: 28-11-2019

Andy is a co-founder, the superintendent pharmacist and director at The Independent Pharmacy.

Reviewed By:

A photo of  William Obeng

William Obeng

MPharm IP

Reviewed on: 28-11-2019

Next review date: 28-11-2021

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