More than a million prescriptions for anti-obesity drugs are dispensed to patients each year at an annual cost of £47.5 million, according to the NHS Information Centre for health and social care (IC).
The number of prescriptions is more than eight times of that handed out nine years ago, and two drugs - orlistat (Xenical) and sibutramine (Reductil) - make up the bulk of the prescriptions issued by GPs in England.
Sibutramine works by altering chemical messages to the brain that control feelings about food, and orlistat prevents some fat absorption.
The NHS also said that more than one in five men and nearly one in four women are now at very high risk of developing health problems, based on waist circumference and body mass index (BMI).
Exercise and healthy diet
Libby Dowling, Care Advisor at Diabetes UK, said: “People should not look to taking a pill to solve their weight problems.
"Anti-obesity drugs can help manage weight problems but should only be used as a last resort. In the first instance, Diabetes UK recommends a healthy diet and regular physical activity to manage weight and reduce serious conditions linked to obesity such as diabetes and heart disease.”
The NHS report comes a week after the Government launched a £372m strategy to aimed at cutting levels of obesity in England.