Why should I consider using these medications? Most people who have used medications to help them lose weight report making better decisions about food, thinking about it less, and feeling more in control. These medicines work best when you use them with planned meals, exercise, and other healthy behavior changes.
How do weight loss medications work? When people lose weight, their body begins sending signals to the brain that there is a decrease in stored energy. The brain then sends hormonal and chemical messages that increase appetite, hunger, and cravings. Losing weight and keeping it off is difficult because these signals last until the person has regained most of the weight back. Weight loss medications target these signals and decrease their effect.
Are weight loss medications safe? Five weight loss medications are currently approved as safe by the FDA for long-term use (2 years). Many of these are undergoing even longer-term studies, including in patients with heart disease. Additional medications are approved for short-term use (less than 12 weeks). Using weight loss medications requires regular medical monitoring. There is no evidence that these medications are addictive.
Other benefits of medications: Most medications ultimately lead to decreased blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels because of the weight loss they cause. Some may even prevent diabetes.
Which medication is right for me? Each of these medications has different benefits and potential side effects. Your healthcare provider can help you decide which is best for you.
Will I have to use them forever?
We are still learning about weight loss and keeping it off long term. Some people will benefit from using these medications to get started. Others may need to keep using them to maintain their weight loss.
FDA APPROVED MEDICATIONS
Phentermine (Lomaira, Adipex) Dosing can be 1-3 times per day depending on the dose and brand. This medication targets centers in the brain to reduce hunger. It may cause dry mouth, constipation, insomnia and/or increased blood pressure.
Phentermine-Topiramate (Qsymia)- Dosing is 1 pill per day. This medication targets centers in the brain to help with appetite, fullness and cravings. Potential side effects include dry mouth, constipation, insomnia, change in taste, tingling sensation in the fingers/toes or dizziness.
Naltrexone-Buproprion (Contrave)- Dosing is 2 pills twice per day. This medication targets the brain to decrease hunger and food cravings. It may cause nausea, constipation, headache, insomnia and/or an increase in blood pressure.
GLP-1 Class of Drugs (Saxenda, Victoza, Ozempic)- This class of drug is an injection and can either be one per day or one per week depending on the brand. This medication targets both the brain and the receptors in the stomach to help increase fullness at each meal. This medication may cause some nausea (especially at the start of the medication but tends to resolve within a few days; but may occur again as you increase the dose). It can also cause constipation, vomiting and low blood sugars (if on other blood sugar controlling medications).
Orlistat (Xenical, Alli OTC) This is a pill taken three times per day before meals. The medication reduces absorption of the fat you eat at each meal. It can cause diarrhea, oily stools and gas.
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