The terms “overweight” and “obesity” refer to body weight that is greater than what is considered normal or healthy for a certain height. Overweight is generally due to extra body fat. However, overweight may also be due to extra muscle, bone, or water. People who have obesity usually have too much body fat.
The U.S. adult obesity rate stands at 42.4 percent, the first time the national rate has passed the 40 percent mark, and further evidence of the country’s obesity crisis. The national adult obesity rate has increased by 26 percent since 2008. Being obese can also increase your risk of developing many potentially serious health conditions, including: type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atherosclerosis (where fatty deposits narrow your arteries), which can lead to coronary heart disease and stroke.
Weight loss medications are an important component of a complete treatment plan for adults with obesity (BMI > 30) or overweight (BMI > 27) with increased adiposity complications. The benefits of weight loss medications include: appetite control, improvement of eating behavior, and slow progression of weight gain and regain.
Before 2012, there were few weight loss medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Today, there are several approved weight loss medications which include:
Lorcaserin (also called Belviq): is a weight loss pill that was approved by the FDA in 2012. It works by selectively targeting hunger receptors in your brain that researchers believe help you feel more full, and therefore help you eat less.
Topiramate/topomax: is a pill that helps manage binge eating and encourage weight loss. Topiramate is an anticonvulsant drug, which means it belongs to a class of drugs that help treat seizures. You should take a low dose of this medicine. Some people also use it to prevent migraines.
Contrave (also called naltrexone HCL or bupropion HCL): is made up of two medications: naltrexone HCL and bupropion HCL. Naltrexone HCL is used to treat opiate addiction, and bupropion HCL is used to treat depression. Both of these medicines work together to lower your appetite and control some cravings.
Victoza (also called Liraglutide): is injected into your skin. When taken at a certain dosage, it helps lower your appetite and control some food cravings. It also lowers blood sugar levels in people who have diabetes.
Saxenda (also called Liraglutide): is an injection that helps people lose weight by lowering appetite and controlling food cravings. It uses the same active ingredient as Victoza, but you should not use these two medicines together.
I’m Over 65. Can I Take Weight Loss Medications?
Your doctor may prescribe weight loss medications to you if you’re between the ages of 18—64. But there’s no evidence that weight loss medications work in adults over the age of 65.
How much weight will i lose with weight loss medications?
By combining weight loss medications with diet and exercise, most people lose 7.5—22 pounds more than with diet and exercise alone.
How Quickly Do Weight Loss Medications Work?
Most people taking weight loss medications lose an average of one to two pounds per week. Of course, weight loss medications work best when you combine them with other healthy lifestyle changes like eating healthy foods and getting regular exercise.
Most patients start to lose weight within weeks. But if you can’t lose more than 5 percent of your body weight within 12 weeks, your doctor may stop prescribing these drugs and develop a different treatment plan for you.
Should I Combine Weight Loss Medications With Exercise?
Weight loss medications work best when you combine them with lifestyle changes like choosing healthier foods, eating fewer calories, and exercising regularly.
You will need to combine weight loss drugs with lifestyle changes if:
• your BMI (body mass index) is more than 30kg/m2, or
• your BMI is more than 27kg/m2 and you have a chronic disease like type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure (hypertension).
How Long Will I Need to Take Medications?
Depending on your health and weight loss goals, you may need to take weight loss medications for years. Because obesity is a chronic disease, the FDA has approved these drugs for long-term use.
What are the side effects of weight loss medications?
Before you’re prescribed any anti-obesity medications, your doctor will ask for your entire medical history, including any:
• diseases you have;
• what medications you take now; and
• what medications you’ve taken in the past.
Your doctor will work with you carefully to make sure it’s safe for you to take weight loss medications along with any other medications you take.
Diabetes Medications & Weight Loss
Newer diabetes medications can also help people with diabetes lose weight. These medications work by controlling blood sugar (glucose) levels inside the body, which in turn helps people feel less hungry and more full.
These medications are called GLP1-agonists. They include:
• liraglutide (Victoza, Saxenda),
• lixisenatide (Lyxumia),
• albiglutide (Tanzeum),
• dulaglutide (Trulicity),
• semaglutide (Ozempic), and
• exenatide (Bydureon).
Another type of diabetes medication called SLT2-inhibitors help people lose weight. These include:
• dapagliflozin (Farxiga),
• empagliflozin (Jardiance), and
• canagliflozin (Invokana).