Weight Loss Medications: Facts and Information.

Weight Loss Medications: Facts and Information.
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Is there a Magic Pill?

Technically, yes there is, but don’t go running to your doctor begging for a prescription just yet. These “magic pills” might not be as great as you are thinking and probably don’t even apply to you. First and foremost, when it comes to weight loss, diet and exercise are always the best option in order to lose weight. It’s all a numbers game, meaning that the calories in must be less than the calories going out. How can one go about doing this? The easiest answer is to watch what you eat and get up and move more. But for some people, this isn’t an answer they want to hear, and in some rare cases, diet and exercise may not be enough. These people may actually have a medical condition such as polycystic ovary syndrome or hypothyroidism that can cause some excess weight gain. Then there are those people who have gone so long without seeking help and have gained such an unbelievable amount of weight that their very life depends on getting the weight off as fast as possible. These are the people who need weight loss medications no matter what the side effects may be.

What are Prescription Weight-Loss Medications?


Prescription weight-loss medications consist of appetite suppressants and lipase inhibitors, although some depression medications and seizure medications have been shown to promote weight loss as well. Appetite suppressants work by tricking the body into thinking that it is full. This is done by increasing the amounts of serotonin and catecholamine in the brain which affects both mood and appetite. The drugs most commonly used as appetite suppressants include: sibutramine, phentermine, phendimetrazine, and diethylpropion. Lipase inhibitors work by preventing the body from breaking down and absorbing the fat that is taken in during a meal and eliminating it through bowel movements. The drug most commonly used as a lipase inhibitor is called orlistat. In early 2007, it was approved as an over-the-counter drug and can be purchased without a prescription by individuals 18 years and older. The brand name version of this drug is called Alli and it is to be used along with diet and exercise.

The only people that are considered for these medications are people with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 and above or people with a BMI of 27 or above with an obesity related condition such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and/or dyslipidemia (abnormal amounts of fat in the blood). These pills are not going to make the weight fly off of anyone and they are to be used in conjunction with diet and exercise. These medications may help speed up the process for people with life-threatening obesity, but they should never be taken by anyone looking to lose weight for cosmetic reasons. Most of the time, the side effects for these medications are mild but in some cases serious complications have been reported. Also worth mentioning is that there have been very few studies showing the long-term safety and effectiveness of these medications.

List of Prescription Weight-Loss Drugs and Side Effects

Below is a list of the most common prescription weight-loss medications and their known side effects.

Sibutramine (Appetite Suppressant) - FDA Approved; long term (up to 1 year) for adults; side effects - increased blood pressure and heart rate

Phentermine (Appetite Suppressant) - FDA Approved; short term (up to 12 weeks) for adults; side effects - increased blood pressure and heart rate, sleeplessness, nervousness

Diethylpropion (Appetite Suppressant) - FDA Approved; short term (up to 12 weeks) for adults; side effects - dizziness, headache, sleeplessness, nervousness

Phendimetrazine (Appetite Suppressant) - FDA Approved; short term (up to 12 weeks) for adults; side effects - sleeplessness, nervousness

Orlistat (Lipase Inhibitor) - FDA Approved; long term (up to 1 year) for adults and children age 12 and older; side effects - gastrointestinal issues (cramping, diarrhea, oily spotting)

Bupropion (Depression Treatment) - Not FDA Approved; side effects - dry mouth, insomnia

Topiramate (Seizure Treatment) - Not FDA Approved; side effects - numbness of skin, change in taste

Zonisamide (Seizure Treatment) - Not FDA Approved; side effects - drowsiness, dry mouth, dizziness, headache, nausea

Metformin (Diabetes Treatment) - Not FDA Approved; side effects - weakness, dizziness, metallic taste, nausea

Bottom Line


Prescription weight-loss medications are definitely not the “magic pill” that so many people are seeking today. There is no such thing as a cure-all for obesity that comes in a bottle. These medications are to be used in conjunction with both a reduced calorie diet and a regular exercise routine and are only meant for those who are morbidly obese and need to lose weight as fast as possible because their life depends upon it. The long term safety of these medications is not known at this point in time as most studies only go out as far as two years of continued use. As with most things in life, it takes some effort and some hard work to lose weight and gain a healthy lifestyle. For most people, it takes years of bad habits to put on the excessive weight that they have gained, and unfortunately in most cases, it will take years of good habits to get those unwanted pounds off. If you are considering weight loss medications, talk with your doctor to see if you actually are in need of these drugs. More often than not, the only prescription you’ll need is a lifestyle change full of activity and healthy eating habits.


Weight Control Information Network (2011, January 6). Prescription Medications for Treatment of Obesity. Retrieved from https://www.win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/prescription.htm

WebMD.com (2011, January 6). Prescription Weight-Loss Drugs. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/weight-loss-prescription-weight-loss-medicine

BNet (2011, January 6). Hidden Causes of Weight Gain. Retrieved from https://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0846/is_9_21/ai_84599063/pg_3/?tag=content;col1