Weight Loss With Medication

For people with obesity, weight loss drugs can be a helpful part of treatment

By R. Morgan Griffin
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte E. Grayson, MD

To many people, any weight loss drug seems like it must be a scam. It's just too good to be true, as plausible as an effective bust-enlargement cream or Home Alchemy Kit.

However, weight loss drugs -- like Xenical and Meridia -- do exist. They also work. And pharmaceutical companies across the globe are industriously working on more. They're not for cosmetic use, so mildly overweight people fretting about bathing suit season shouldn't apply. Their effects are also modest, usually resulting in a loss of no more than 10% of a person's body weight. Contrary to some hopes, they don't replace diet and exercise; weight loss drugs only work in conjunction with lifestyle changes.

Why Use a Weight Loss Drug?

Many people, including doctors, have a strong aversion to using weight loss drugs to treat obesity, according to Holly Wyatt, MD, an endocrinologist at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. The longstanding wisdom was that obesity resulted from a failure of willpower. If only people would just stop eating so much and get off the couch, no one would be obese. So why bother with drugs?

But that simple way of thinking is increasingly under fire from experts. It isn't the whole story.