Prescription Weight Loss Medicine
Obesity often requires long-term treatment to promote and sustain
weight loss. As in other chronic conditions, such as
high blood pressure, long-term use of prescription
medications may be appropriate for some people. While
most side effects of prescription medications for
obesity are mild, serious complications have been
reported (see below.)
Keep in mind that these drugs are not a cure-all. The
use of weight-loss medications should be combined with
physical activity and improved diet to lose and maintain
weight successfully over the long term .
Do I Need Medicine to Lose Weight?
Using prescription drugs to treat obesity should be
used as an option for the following individuals:
- People with a body mass index (BMI) > 30 with no
- A person with a BMI of > 27 with two or more
obesity-related conditions .
What Prescription Medicines Are Used to Treat
Currently, most available weight-loss medications
approved by the FDA are for short-term use, meaning a
few weeks or months.
Most available weight-loss medications are
"appetite-suppressant" medications. These include:
Didrex, Tenuate, Sanorex, Mazanor, Adipex-P and Meridia.
These medications generally come in the form of tablets
or extended-release capsules (pills that release
medication over a long period of time). Appetite
suppressants can be obtained by a doctor's prescription
or purchased over the counter .
In the mid 1990s doctors also prescribed the popular
appetite suppressant Redux or the combination of
phentermine and fenfluramine, called "Phen-fen."
However fenfluramine (Pondimin) and Redux were withdrawn
from the market in 1997 because they caused damage to
heart valves. Phentermine is still available. Taking
phentermine alone has not been associated with the
adverse health effects of the fenfluramine-phentermine
Another type of prescription weight loss drug is a
fat absorption inhibitor. Xenical is the only example of
this type of treatment approved for use in the U.S.
Xenical works by blocking about 30% of dietary fat from
being absorbed, and is the most recently approved weight
Meridia and Xenical are the only weight-loss
medications approved for longer-term use in
significantly obese people, although the safety and
effectiveness have not been established for use beyond 1
How Do Appetite Suppressants Work?
Appetite suppressants promote weight loss by tricking
the body into believing that it is not hungry or that it
is full. They decrease appetite by increasing serotonin
or catecholamine -- two brain chemicals that affect mood
How Do Fat Absorption Inhibitors Work?
Fat-absorption inhibitors work by preventing your
body from breaking down and absorbing fat eaten with
your meals. This unabsorbed fat is eliminated in bowel
Do Prescription Weight Loss Drugs Really Work?
In general, Xenical and Meridia are moderately
effective, leading to an average weight loss of 5 to 22
pounds over a 1 year period, more than what would be
expected with non-drug treatments. However, the response
to these medications is based on each individual, and
some people experience more weight loss than others.
Likewise, there is no one correct dose for these
medications. Your doctor will decide what works best for
you based on his or her evaluation of your medical
condition and your response to treatment.
Some people have lost more than 10% of their initial
body weight with the help of prescription medications.
This is a large enough amount to reduce the risk of high
blood pressure, diabetes and other obesity-related
health complications . Patients generally experience a
maximum weight loss within 6 months of starting
Over the short term, weight loss due to prescription
drugs may reduce a number of health risks in obese
individuals. However, there are currently no studies to
determine the effects of these medications over the long