Prescription Drugs Causing Weight Gain? (cont.)

Common Offenders That Can Cause Weight Gain

While no one knows exactly how many prescription drugs can cause weight gain, experts estimate the list includes more than 50 common medications.

Steroids such as prednisone, older antidepressants such as Elavil and Tofranil, and second-generation antipsychotics like Zyprexa are the biggest -- and most recognized -- promoters of weight gain, Fernstrom says.

Some other common offenders, says Fernstrom, include the antidepressants Paxil and Zoloft, the antiseizure medication Depakote, diabetes drugs like Diabeta and Diabinese, and the high blood pressure drugs Cardura and Inderal. Heartburn drugs like Nexium and Prevacid may also cause drug-induced weight gain.

Fernstrom tells WebMD that the medication-associated weight gain can be modest -- or as much as 30 pounds over several months.

"And in some cases, it is unrelated to the action of the drug itself," she adds. "For example, if an antidepressant makes people feel better, their appetite may be restored and they eat more."

Making matters more complicated is that some drugs, like Prevacid and Nexium, can cause weight gain in some people and weight loss in others.

"Not all drugs have the same side effects for all people," she says. "You have to work with your doctor to find the drug that's right for you."

Aronne says he warns against putting too much stock in a list of specific drugs that cause weight gain.


"Weight gain can grow out of the medicine chest."

"What you need to know," he tells WebMD, "is that certain types of drugs can cause weight gain." But in almost every case, the doctor will be able to switch you to another medication that has the same desirable effects but which will not cause weight gain and may even help you to shed a few pounds, he says.

For example, while some drugs used to treat depression and other mood disorders can cause weight gain, the antidepressants Wellbutrin and Prozac tend to help people lose weight, says Aronne, who is also clinical professor of medicine at Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York City.

Ditto for diabetes medications. "Yes, some can induce weight gain, but Glucophage and Precose are both weight-neutral, while two newer drugs -- Byetta and Symlin -- can actually help you lose weight," he says.

As for medications used to treat seizure disorders and headaches, Aronne says that Zonegran and Topamax are good alternatives that are both associated with weight loss.

Aronne recalls the case of one 190-pound woman being treated for migraine headaches who came to his obesity clinic. His team tried a variety of measures, even a liquid diet, to help her shed the unhealthy excess weight, but she stabilized after losing only 10 pounds.

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