More children are taking anti-obesity drugs than ever before, but give up before the treatment can take effect, according to data.
A study found that 15 times the amount of under-18s are using the medicines compared to 1999, estimating that about 1,300 youngsters are prescribed them every year.
Yet anti-obesity drugs are only licensed for adults, meaning family doctors are offering them to children off-label.
Researchers examined the use of orlistat (Xenical), sibutramine (Reductil) and rimonabant (Acomplia) in under-18s, focusing on prescribing data between January 1 1999 and December 31 2006 from the UK General Practice Research Database.
They found that 1,334 prescriptions were given out to 452 youngsters in that period.
Russell Viner, one of the authors of the study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, said: ‘It’s possible that the drugs are being given inappropriately, or that they have excessive side effects that make young people discontinue their use.
‘On the other hand, they could be expecting the drugs to deliver a miracle ‘quick fix’ and stop using them when sudden, rapid weight loss does not occur.’