Over-the-counter diet pills claim to curb your appetite and trim you down -- sometimes in a matter of mere days. These pills, which often combine caffeine with various herbs and botanicals, come with a caveat emptor: these are not weight loss drugs but rather dietary supplements. The diet pills that curb your appetite the most are drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expressly for weight loss.
The FDA has approved three weight-loss drugs that function as appetite suppressants: phentermine, diethylpropion and phendimetrazine. These three medications are similar to an amphetamine and affect your central nervous system so your appetite doesn't rage out of control. Doctors prescribe these drugs as a part of a more comprehensive program to treat obesity, which includes a reduced-calorie diet and regular exercise. According to the Weight-Control Information Network, or WIN, the FDA has approved these anti-obesity drugs for adults only. They can be used for no more than three months at a time. Side effects may include insomnia, restlessness, headache, increased heart rate and increased blood pressure.
Other Diet Pills
Nonprescription diet pills are a tempting product; but don't confuse these with prescription drugs with a solid track record. Over-the-counter weight loss supplements are dietary supplements that fall under the same classification as your average multivitamin. You have no assurance that they're effective, and according to the FDA, they might not even be safe. The FDA discovered many tainted dietary supplements that contain undeclared prescription pharmaceuticals, including sibutramine. Subutramine was taken off the market in October 2010 because it increased the likelihood of heart problems and stroke in patients who used it.
In 1999, the FDA approved another drug for weight loss that works differently than most: orlistat. Although orlistat doesn't suppress your appetite, it can be safely used for up to a year. Orlistat is available in prescription and nonprescription strengths. This weight-loss medication is a lipase inhibitor and encourages weight loss by reducing the amount of dietary fat your body absorbs from food. To receive the best benefits from this drug, it should be accompanied by a reduced-calorie, low-fat diet; regular exercise; and a multivitamin. Nonprescription orlistat is sold under the trade name Alli. Talk to your health care provider before you take Alli to make sure it's the best option for you.
Cautions and Concerns
If your doctor refuses to prescribe pills that curb your appetite, there's a reason for this. These medications are not for the dieter who has trouble losing that last five pounds; rather, they're generally reserved for people with a body mass index of 30 or more or those with a BMI of 27 who experience weight-related health problems. MayoClinic.com notes that the best and most effective way to lose weight is to make changes to your lifestyle that include calorie control and exercise. Without a commitment to a healthier lifestyle, even the most effective diet pill won't give you the life-long results you want.
- MayoClinic.com: Weight-loss Drugs -- Can a Prescription Help You Lose Weight?; November 2010
- Weight-control Information Network: Prescription Medications for the Treatment of Obesity
- Drugs.com: Phentermine; June 2010
- Drugs.com: Diethylpropion; December 2010
- Drugs.com: Phendimetrazine; July 2009
- MayoClinic.com: Over-the-counter Weight Loss Pills -- Do They Work?; November 2010
- U.S. FDA: Beware of Fraudulent Weight-Loss ‘Dietary Supplements’; May 2011
- University of Utah Hospitals & Clinics: Sibutramine Withdrawn from Market ...; October 2010