What Drugs Make You Lose Weight?

Diet fork with tape measure
Weight loss can be difficult but there are medications available to help. (Image: michaelquirk/iStock/Getty Images)

The process of losing weight can often be a difficult challenge depending on the resources available and the amount of weight needed to lose. The Mayo Clinic indicates that long-term results of weight loss are contingent upon balancing the intake of calories, fat, nutrition and exercise habits one is willing to endure. When complete lifestyle change does not render significant weight loss, there are medication options for achieving weight loss. Medications may be available over the counter and by prescription after consultation with a physician.

Over-the-Counter Options

The Mayo Clinic warns that many over-the-counter medications are not proven effective and may be dangerous. However, learning about the medication prior to purchase and consulting a physician is beneficial in planning for weight loss. A reduced-strength version of orlistat is available in local stores for OTC purchase. This medication is intended to decrease the absorption of fat through the intestines, which results in decreased calorie absorption. Orlistat disables an enzyme called lipase in the digestive tract, which leads to elimination of waste instead of storing fat. The Mayo Clinic warns that this medication has received FDA alerts of potential liver injury from use. Additional OTC options include chromium and hoodia, which are both marketed as appetite suppressants.

FDA-Approved Prescriptions

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, FDA-approved weight loss medications are for short-term use to reach your desired goal. Most of the drugs available by prescription are appetite suppressants, such as phentermine and diethylpropion. Appetite suppressants increase weight loss by making the body feel full, which may then decrease the appetite. Prescription-strength lipase inhibitors such as orlistat in high dose are also approved by the FDA and available only by prescription.

Off-Label Drugs

Off-label medications refer to drugs used for another purpose but found to be effective for weight loss as well. Off-label weight loss options are not FDA approved for treating obesity but are still available by prescription from a physician. According to the NIDDK, antidepressant medications such as bupropion have been found to have a side effect of weight loss that may be sustained for up to one year. Topiramate and metformin, an antiseizure and diabetes medication, respectively, have also been found to have weight loss effects. Physicians are able to prescribe off-label use of these medications depending on the needs of the individual for weight loss. However, it is recommended that this be further discussed with your physician to understand potential side effects of using an off-label weight loss medication.

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