Effect of orlistat on cardiovascular disease risk in obese adults


¶Prof Boyd A Swinburn, Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Melbourne VIC 3125, Australia.


Aim:  The aim of this study is to compare the effect of orlistat vs. placebo on the predicted 10-year cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk in obese people with one or more cardiovascular risk factors treated for 12 months, in conjunction with a fat-reduced, but otherwise ad libitum, diet.

Methods:  A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel study was performed in conjunction with a fat-reduced diet and physical activity advice for 1 year. Participants (n = 339) from eight centres in Australia and New Zealand were randomized to either orlistat (120 mg) three times daily (n = 104 women, 66 men; mean ± s.d. age = 52.0 ± 7.5 years, body mass index (BMI) = 37.6 ± 5.1 kg/m2) or placebo three times daily (n = 89 women, 80 men; age = 52.5 ± 7.4 years, BMI = 38.0 ± 4.9 kg/m2). The primary efficacy criterion was the 10-year risk of developing CVD calculated from the Framingham equation. Secondary efficacy criteria were body weight, waist circumference, blood pressure and serum concentrations of triglycerides, cholesterol (total, LDL and HDL), glucose, insulin and glycated haemoglobin and quality of life.

Results:  There was no difference in the change in 10-year CVD risk between orlistat and placebo groups over 1 year. The orlistat group, however, had significant favourable changes in many of the individual CVD risk factors (total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, glucose, glycated haemoglobin, insulin, body weight and waist circumference) and one of the domains of quality of life measured by means of the SF-36 questionnaire (vitality), compared to the placebo group. Significant reductions in medication use for hypertension and diabetes were observed in the orlistat group, compared to those in placebo, but there were no significant differences in medication use for blood lipids.

Conclusions:  Orlistat may have reduced CVD risk, as judged by the favourable changes in individual risk factors and reductions in medication use, but the method used in order to measure absolute CVD risk in this study (Framingham CVD equation) was not sensitive enough to detect the changes in this relatively low-risk group (approximately 10% of risk of a CVD event over 10 years).