Patients in the UK are to be offered an anti-obesity drug at pharmacies without prescription from their GP in the next few months, it has been announced.
But the drug will only be available on request from behind the counter so staff can question patients to make sure the drug is suitable.
The licence for Orlistat (alli) was granted by European regulators after it received preliminary approval in October.
The drug is currently priced at $2 (£1.45) a day in the US and its maker, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), said the cost to UK patients would around the same.
It is the first time the European Commission has authorised a nonprescription weight loss drug, according to GSK.
Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: "GPs would always advise patients to be cautious about taking slimming pills – especially those that can be obtained over the counter without seeing a GP first.
"Any patients who have concerns about their weight should consult their GP who can talk through the issues and take into account any other underlying health or psychological problems.
"Slimming pills might deliver a quick fix but the best way of losing weight and keeping it off is by making lifestyle changes – eating healthier and taking more exercise."