Obesity is now considered a chronic condition that may be managed with a long-term FDA-approved drug therapy in a physician-guided weight loss program. In conjunction with lifestyle modifications, medications are now a guideline-recommended option for weight loss that is otherwise unobtainable through lifestyle changes alone. Medically-assisted weight loss involves the use of anti-obesity medications. The goal of these medications is to help you achieve and maintain reduction of body mass index (BMI), potentially preventing obesity-related complications and overall poorer quality of life.
Medically-assisted weight loss, however, is not a magical cure. It may be typical for you to lose about 4 to 8 percent of your current weight when you undergo medically-assisted weight loss. As you partake in medically-assisted weight loss program, you may lose approximately a pound a week. Losing about 5 to 10 percent of weight can significantly lower the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, even in those who have been diagnosed with prediabetes. Although this percentage of weight loss may not seem like much, losing 5 to 10 percent of weight can also lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of developing hypertension. For individuals with identified cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension and hyperlipidemia, weight reduction can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Types of Anti-Obesity Medications
If you meet the parameters for medically-assisted weight loss and there are no contraindications, FDA-approved anti-obesity medications may be an option for you.
Bupropion-naltrexone is a combination of two drugs that work synergistically to help curb your cravings and/or addiction to food. Some potential gastrointestinal side effects include nausea, vomiting, constipation and headache. In a 56-week trial (COR-BMOD), this medication has been shown to help individuals achieve a 9.3% body weight loss.
Orlistat is an oral medication that lowers fat reabsorption from digestion of your food content. Potential side effects include oily stool and flatus. These potential side effects may be curbed with a lower-fat-content diet. At Week 52, Orlistat has been shown through a study trial (Xendos) to help individuals achieve 9.6% body weight loss.
Lorcaserin helps you feel full quicker and thereby consume smaller meal portion. Potential side effects include nausea, constipation, fatigue, dry mouth, and headaches.
Liraglutide is a daily injection drug and a potentially suitable option for type 2 diabetic individuals who are amenable to injection as a route of medication administration. Liraglutide also helps promote early satiety by inducing you to feel full quicker, thus lowering your appetite. This medication may induce certain gastrointestinal side effects including nausea and abdominal discomfort.
Phentermine-topiramate is a two-drug combo that can lower your appetite by helping you feel full quicker. Women planning to become pregnant as well as women who are already pregnant or breastfeeding should not take this medication, as it may lead to birth defects. Side effects of this drug may include dizziness, dry mouth, changes in taste, insomnia, and tingling in feet and hands.
Your prescribing doctor will monitor your progress on this weight loss journey through periodic follow-ups. After 12 weeks of being on an anti-obesity medication (at tolerated maximum dosage), you should lose about 4 to 5 percent of body weight. If you do not meet that goal, your doctor may taper and discontinue the drug. You should let your doctor know about any side effects you may experience. If you fail to lose weight with one medication, an alternative may be considered pending your physician’s discretion and clinical judgment. The overall goal is to achieve better health and a higher quality of life.