I just have to pass along this great posting from the Feministe blog:
A new blogger to the site, going by Zuzu, highlights the ideology which permeates the FDA's decisions in approving certain medications for over-the-counter use. Apparently this diet drug (which would be called Alli) is used to block the absorption of fat. It doesn't have a very good track record, and produces rather disgusting and embarrassing side effects (no big surprise: the body wasn't meant to pass fat out through the digestive tract). And, it can be dangerous when taken with certain other medications. Also, as we can all imagine, it has a VERY high potential to be abused by teen girls (wait, where have we heard that one before?) Despite this, the FDA is approving it.
This might not seem like that big a deal, until you compare it with the FDA's much more publicized denial of Plan B's petition to be sold over the counter. As Zuzu points out (but I'll sum up in case you don't feel like reading the posting), Plan B has a very good track record, is very effective with few if any side effects, and has the approval of most everyone in the scientific community (even the FDA advisory board). (As a side note, I remember my gynecologist getting quite worked up over the FDA's denial of Plan B.) However, a higher up in the FDA, on pure ideology, blocked Plan B's path to being sold over the counter. Why? Because it could be abused by teen girls. (I think this is interesting, I mean, wouldn't we rather a teen use Plan B than later end up having an abortion?!)
Anyway, it's interesting that we're willing for teens to hurt themselves in the pursuit of becoming skinny, but we won't give them a safe way to prevent an unwanted pregnancy (or an abortion later down the line).