Alli: Miracle drug or just a pain in the butt?

Alli starter kit, Photo: AP Graphics
Alli starter kit, Photo: AP Graphics

Reporter: Shannon Samson
New Media Producer: Rachel Beavin

The first over-the-counter weight loss drug hit store shelves this summer to mixed reviews.

Alli keeps the body from absorbing fat, but critics say the possible side effects are too disturbing to make it worth it. Do users agree?

Drug maker, Glaxosmithkline, doesn't beat around the bush. On its website, it warns you that it's probably a smart idea to wear dark pants and bring a change of clothes to work if you just started taking Alli because there's a possibility you may have a very unpleasant accident.

Still, there is no shortage of people who will risk public embarrassment to shed a few pounds. They each have their own stories to tell.

Trisha Montgomery has yet to master the art of losing weight, but there was a time when she thought she had. Three-years-ago, her doctor prescribed her the prescription drug Xenical to help her prevent acid reflux.

Soon, this Dale, Indiana mom says she went from 206 pounds down to 189, "It did work. I mean, I lost the 17 pounds in like three months, so that was pretty cool."

What wasn't so cool was what she had to go through to get there.

The list of side effects is as long as it is revolting: spotting, gas, increased bowel movements, uncontrollable need to use bathroom; abdominal pain.

But what you won't see here are jitteriness, dry mouth and sleeplessness, the things we commonly associate with taking diet pills. That's because the drug doesn't work on the heart or brain, only the digestive system.

That's one of the reasons the FDA allowed Xenical to be sold over the counter at half the dose under the brand name Alli.

Alli blocks the absorption of about 25% of the fat eaten, so users are encouraged to have no more than 15 grams per meal. Otherwise, they'll pass the extra fat and risk those nasty side effects.

Trisha says she thought she was safe eating only Lean Cuisines, but, "When I started eating those diet things at the store, I was like, 'I thought this was supposed to be low in fat?' yeah, uh-huh, there is something funny about that."

Trisha says she wasn't laughing when she was running to the bathroom, "After a few embarrassing moments, you figure it out pretty quick."

Keep in mind, you're still going to have to diet and exercise. The pill doesn't work alone. Just ask John Finley of Henderson. Between his work as a salesman and his newborn son, he says he isn't working out as much as he'd like, "That's what I was looking for in the pill to do that be in place of changing my diet. My diet is kind of set and strange."

Every single night, John eats a large frozen pizza and an entire half gallon of ice cream.

Amazingly, John says he isn't paying the price for his high fat, highly unusual meal plan, "I'm happy that I'm not having the negative effects that come with it, but I'd like to know that something was going on."

He has yet to lose a single pound, but he says he is not giving up on the idea of the magic bullet, "There are scientists out there who are trying to figure this stuff out. I guess I'm a little naive, or trusting or want to believe. One of these days, they're going to figure it out and if I don't take it, everybody's going to be skinny but me."

For Trisha, that day is already here. She believes Xenical was the answer to her prayers and can't wait to start taking Alli.

She has this advice for others considering taking it, "Just watch what you eat because of them embarrassing moments!"

So for Trisha, the results are manageable. She said once she figured out that she couldn't eat her favorite Three Musketeers candy bars, she was good to go.

Once she stopped taking the medicine because she couldn't afford it anymore, she says there was no incentive not to cheat on her diet and she gained back the weight and then some.

She was paying about a $168 dollars a month when the drug was Xenical.

The over the counter version is pretty pricey too, at around $50 bucks.