Which Medications Are Commonly Used for Medical Weight Loss?

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Despite countless diets, exercise routines, and lifestyle changes, the scale refuses to budge. It’s frustrating, discouraging, and might make you appear desperate.

If it seems similar, you aren’t lonely. Thousands of individuals worldwide battle with shedding pounds, and they frequently face both physical and mental obstacles.

What if there had been another option? A tool that may tilt the odds in your support? It is where prescription weight loss medications enter the picture. They’re not a magic solution, but they’ve been a game-changer in their weight loss journey for many.

This guide explains prescription weight loss drugs, providing insight and practical information to help improve your health.

Overview of Prescription Weight Loss Medications

Prescription weight loss drugs are medications specifically formulated to help individuals lose weight. They function through a variety of methods, such as reducing hunger, increased fullness, and reduced fat absorption. What’s the ultimate goal? To help you lose those inflexible pounds that have eluded diet and exercise.

When are they prescribed? If you’ve been battling with your weight, you may question if these medications are right for you. Doctors consider prescribing weight loss medications for individuals who:

  • Have a BMI equal to or greater than 30
  • Have a BMI between 27 and 29.9 (overweight) and weight-related health problems including diabetes, hypertension, or elevated cholesterol levels.

It is critical to realize that these medications aren’t for everyone. Your doctor will carefully consider your health before recommending any prescription weight loss drug.

Related, How to Get Weight Loss Medication?

Commonly Prescribed Weight Loss Medications

Let’s begin examining a couple of those most widely used weight loss medications.

1. GLP-1 Agonists: Semaglutide (Wegoby)

Semaglutide, often known as Wegovy, has been making waves in weight loss. This drug mimics GLP-1, a hormone that regulates appetite and food consumption.

How It Works: Semaglutide helps you feel full for longer and reduces cravings by targeting parts of your brain that control appetite. It activates explicitly GLP-1 receptors, which slows gastric emptying and increases insulin secretion while decreasing glucagon release. It leads to improved glycemic control and reduced appetite.

Administration: Wegovy is injected weekly under the skin. The dose is initially set at a low level to minimize side effects. It is then gradually increased over 16-20 weeks. The maintenance dose is 2.4 mg once a week.

Results: Clinical trials have shown impressive results, with many losing 15-20% of their body weight. Patients in the STEP 1 experiment lost an average of 14.9% of their body weight over 68 weeks, compared to 2.4% in the placebo group.

Side Effects: Adverse effects include nausea, diarrhea, loose stool. These tend to be most pronounced when starting treatment or increasing doses.

Related, Role of Medications in Medical Weight Loss

2. GIP/GLP-1 Agonists: Tirzepatide (Zep Bound)

Tirzepatide, also known as Zepbound, is a newer drug that provides a dual-action approach to weight loss..

How It Works: This drug acts as an agonist for the GLP-1 and GIP (glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide) receptors. GIP helps GLP-1 work better, resulting in better blood sugar control and weight loss than using GLP-1 alone.

Administration: Zep Bound is given as a weekly injection under the skin. Begin with 2.5 mg. If you respond well and tolerate it, increase it to 5 mg. You can then increase to 10 mg or 15 mg based on your response and tolerance to the medicine.

Results: In the SURMOUNT-1 trial, participants lost an average of 22.5% of their body weight on the highest dose (15 mg) over 72 weeks, compared to 2.4% with placebo.

Side Effects: The dual mechanism of action may lead to nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting and more pronounced effects on slowing gastric emptying.

3. Combination Medications: Bupropion-naltrexone (Contrave)

Contrave takes a different approach by combining two medications that work on brain pathways related to hunger and cravings.

How It Works: The drug bupropion, a depression medication and nicotine withdrawal aid, decreases hunger by working on the norepinephrine and dopamine channels. Naltrexone, an opioid antagonist, blocks the reward aspects of eating and enhances the appetite-suppressing effects of bupropion.

Administration: Contrave is taken by mouth, usually two times daily. To minimize adverse outcomes, the dose gets raised gradually all over the preliminary four weeks. The recommended dosage is a pair of pills twice daily, each comprising 8 milligrammes of neurontin and 90 mg of zyban.

Results: In clinical trials, participants lost an average of 5-10% of their body weight in a year. The COR-I study showed an average weight loss of 6.1% with Contrave compared to 1.3% with placebo.

Side Effects: Common side effects include nausea, constipation, headaches, vomiting, and insomnia. Bupropion may raise the risk of seizures and suicidal ideation, especially with young people.

4. Lipase Inhibitors: Orlistat (Xenical, Alli)

Orlistat takes a different approach by focusing on fat absorption in your digestive system.

How It Works: This medicine inhibits pancreatic and gastric lipases, enzymes that degrade lipids in the intestine. This prevents the absorption of approximately 30% of the fat you consume.

Administration: Orlistat is taken orally with meals or up to 1 hour after a meal, three times daily. The prescription strength (Xenical) is 120 mg, while the over-the-counter version is 60 mg.

Results: People typically lose 5-10% of their weight with Orlistat. In a 4-year study, participants lost an average of 5.8 kg more than placebo.

Side Effects: The stomach is where the most prevalent side effects occur. These include oily spotting, gas with discharge, urgent need to use the bathroom, and fatty/oily stools. These side effects are caused by undigested fat passing through the body.

The side effects are from undigested fat moving through the body. Orlistat can impair the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K. It is suggested that you take a multivitamin while using Orlistat.

5. Rare Genetic Disorder Medication: Setmelanotide (Imcivree)

Setmelanotide is a specialized medication for people with certain rare genetic disorders causing obesity.

How It Works: This medication is a melanocortin four receptor (MC4R) agonist. The emphasis is on the neural pathway that regulates appetite and consumption of energy. POMC, PCSK1, and LEPR deficiency are examples of genetic disorders that influence this system.

Administration: Imcivree is administered as a daily subcutaneous injection.  Doctors base the dose on body weight and response to treatment.

Results: Setmelanotide can help people with certain genetic disorders lose weight and reduce hunger significantly. In clinical trials, around 80% of patients with POMC or PCSK1 deficiency lost at least 10% of their body weight within a year.

Side Effects: Adverse effects include allergic responses, discoloration of the skin, and vomiting. Due to its mechanism of action, it can also cause increased sexual arousal.

Comparison of Weight Loss Medication Efficacy

When contemplating weight loss medicines, it’s reasonable to have questions like “How effective are they? Let’s break it down:

  • Semaglutide (Wegovy): 15-20% average weight loss
  • Tirzepatide (Zep Bound): 15-25% average weight loss
  • Bupropion-naltrexone (Contrave): 5% average weight loss
  • Orlistat (Xenical, Alli): 5-10% average weight loss
  • Setmelanotide (Imcivree): Varies but can be significant for those with specific genetic disorders

Remember, these are average results. Your journey may look different. Factors that can impact your results include:

  • Your starting weight and overall health
  • How closely you follow the prescribed diet and exercise plan
  • Your body’s unique response to the medication
  • Other health conditions you may have
  • Stress levels and sleep quality
  • Genetics

It’s crucial to approach these medications with realistic expectations and a commitment to lifestyle changes.

Duration of Weight Loss Medication Use

The length of time you might use a weight loss medication can vary depending on the specific drug and your needs.

Considerations for long-term use include:

  • Ongoing effectiveness of the medication
  • Side effects and how well they’re tolerated
  • Overall health improvements
  • The need for continued support in maintaining weight loss

Decide with your healthcare provider how long to take medication based on your health needs and goals.

Risks and Side Effects of Weight Loss Medications

While weight loss medications can be beneficial, they also have risks and side effectsIt is vital to grasp these in order to make an informed decision and predict what to expect.

Common side effects can include:

  • Gastrointestinal problems include nausea, diarrhea, and constipation.
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in taste

More severe, although less common side effects may include:

  • Cardiovascular side effects include elevated respiration and elevated blood pressure.
  • Mood changes or depression
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Pancreatitis (with some GLP-1 agonists)

It is critical to be watched by your physician as you take these drugs. They can help adjust dosages, manage side effects, and ensure the medication works safely and effectively.

Role of Weight Loss Medications in Comprehensive Treatment

Weight reduction drugs work best when used as part of a complete weight control plan. Consider them one tool in your weight-loss toolbox, functioning alongside:

  • A balanced, healthy diet that is adapted to your needs.
  • Regular physical exercise that you love and can maintain.
  • Behavioral changes to address emotional eating or other habits
  • Regular, enjoyable, and sustainable physical activity
  • Proper sleep and self-care practices

Remember that the goal is not only to lose weight, but to improve your overall health and quality of life.Medications can assist, but long-term change requires developing better habits that you can stick to.

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The Final Verdict

If you have struggled with obesity, weight loss medications prescribed by a doctor can help you achieve accurate results. These medications can assist you in losing weight. It is essential to consult with a doctor before starting any weight loss medication.

They are not a quick solution. However, when used with other weight management strategies, they can significantly enhance your health and well-being.

Keep in mind that your process of weight reduction program is distinctive to you. What is effective for one individual could prove unsuccessful for others. Working closely with a healthcare practitioner is vital for determining the best method for your specific needs.


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Dr Farhan Malik
Dr. Farhan Malik Primary Care Physician
Dr Shoaib Malik
Dr. Shoaib Malik Primary Care Physician
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