Prescription Weight Loss Medicine (cont.)

Are There Risks to Taking These Medications?

When considering the use of long-term weight-loss medication treatment for obesity, the following possible concerns and risks should be discussed with your doctor:

  • Addiction. Currently, all prescription medications to treat obesity except Xenical are "controlled substances." This means that doctors are required to follow certain restrictions when prescribing them since they could be addictive.
  • Developed tolerance. Most people's weight tends to level off after 6 months while taking a weight-loss medication. This leads to a concern that the person has developed a tolerance for the medication. However, it is unclear whether this leveling off is indeed due to a developed tolerance or if the medication has reached its limit in effectiveness.
  • Side effects. Most side effects of weight loss medications are mild (although some can be unpleasant) and usually improve as your body adjusts to the medication. Rarely, serious and even fatal outcomes have been reported.

What Are the Side Effects?

Most appetite suppressants are used as a short-term treatment for people with obesity. Not only do the drugs' effects tend to wear off after a few weeks, but they can also have some unpleasant side effects, including:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia (inability to sleep or stay asleep)
  • Excessive thirst
  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Stuffy nose
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Dry mouth

Some side effects with Xenical include, gas with discharge, urgent need to go to the bathroom, oily or fatty stools, an oily discharge and spotting, increased number of bowel movements and the inability to control bowel movements. These side effects are generally mild and temporary, but may be worsened by eating foods that are high in fat. Because Xenical reduces the absorption of some vitamins, people taking Xenical should take a multivitamin at least 2 hours before or after taking the medication.

In the event that any of the following symptoms occur while taking Xenical, you should call your doctor as soon as possible.

  • Achiness
  • Chills
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Painful menstruation
  • Swelling of the body or of the feet and ankles

People with poorly controlled high blood pressure, heart disease, irregular heartbeat or a history of stroke should not take Meridia. All people taking Meridia should have their blood pressure monitored on a regular basis.

Because of the short-term effects of these drugs, it is important for people who are trying to lose weight to learn new eating habits and to exercise while the drug is still effective. Once healthy eating and regular exercise have been learned and established, it is important to continue eating right and exercising if you hope to continue losing weight and keep lost weight from returning.

Appetite suppressants are not for everybody. For example, there are limited studies on these medications' effects on older adults and no studies have been done on children.

What Should I Discuss With My Doctor Before Taking Weight Loss Medicine?

Before a doctor will prescribe a prescription weight loss drug, he or she will ask you about the following: any existing allergies you may have, whether or not you are pregnant or breastfeeding, and what types of other medications you may be taking. Existing medical conditions may also affect the use of these drugs. You should tell your doctor if you have any of the following conditions.

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Epilepsy (seizures)
  • Kidney disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Alcohol or drug abuse (or a history of)
  • Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism)
  • Depression or other mental illness
  • Migraine headaches requiring medication
  • Planning to have surgery requiring general anesthesia

People who are prescribed appetite suppressants should follow the prescription carefully. Because appetite suppressants may cause drowsiness or lightheadedness, it is important to know how you respond to these medications before you attempt to drive or operate machinery.



STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!