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Weight Loss Medicine

written by Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse Written by Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse
Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa is a MSN prepared Registered Nurse with 10 years of critical care experience in healthcare. When not practicing clinical nursing, she enjoys academic writing and is passionate about helping those affected by medical aliments live healthy lives.

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reviewBy Reviewed by: Linda Anegawa MD, FACP
Reviewer

Linda Anegawa MD, FACP

Dr. Anegawa graduated from the Univ. of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and completed residency at Stanford. She has over 20 years of practice experience and specializes in Internal Medicine and Obesity Medicine.

June 27, 2022 Read Time - 6 minutes

What is Weight Loss Medicine?

Many Americans struggle with obesity and being overweight. According to the CDC, 42% of adults in the United States have obesity, defined as a Body Mass Index (or BMI) over 30 kg/meter squared. This has been termed the obesity epidemic. 

Over the past several years, prescription weight loss medicines have been developed and approved by the FDA to help fight the obesity epidemic. These weight loss medicines are approved for use in  conjunction with healthy eating and exercise to promote weight loss in those who suffer from overweight or obesity.

Some weight loss medicines work by either reducing appetite and/or increasing metabolism. Reducing one’s appetite reduces the amount of food intake, which can result in weight loss. Increasing one’s metabolism can help burn energy quicker and more efficiently, thereby allowing for weight loss. 

Some prescription medicines allow people to lose weight by activating chemicals in the brain that control hunger and cravings. By reducing the urge to eat or reducing cravings for foods high in fat, sugar, and starch, weight loss can also be a result. 

Some weight loss medicines work mechanically; that is, they work within your gastrointestinal system to eliminate the absorption of  fat or increase feelings of fullness, leading to an overall reduction in energy absorbed and food taken in.

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Types of Weight Loss Medicine 

Over the years, many types of weight loss medicines have been approved by the FDA and are currently being prescribed as weight loss treatment plans. The following weight loss medicines are FDA approved for weight loss:

Liraglutide

Liraglutide (trade name Saxenda) is a GLP-1 receptor agonist drug approved for the treatment of obesity and is administered as a once-daily subcutaneous injection. The GLP-1 agonist group of drugs works for weight loss by increasing fullness sensations in the stomach and slowing gastric emptying, resulting in weight loss. Liraglutide may be used in people with or without diabetes.

Semaglutide

Semaglutide (trade name Wegovy) is another GLP-1 agonist drug, is administered as a once-weekly subcutaneous injection and has a proven effect on weight reduction. Semaglutide is FDA approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, and more recently became FDA approved to treat obesity in the absence of diabetes, as of June 2021.

Orlistat

Orlistat (trade names Alli, Xenical) – This drug inhibits the activity of an enzyme called lipase which helps breakdown fat for absorption by the body. Orlistat therefore helps to block fat absorption. Orlistat is safe and effective for weight loss but is less well-tolerated due to its frequent gastrointestinal side effects.

Phentermine-Topiramate

Phentermine-Topiramate (trade name Qsymia) is a combination drug made with phentermine and topiramate resulting in strong appetite suppression. Qsymia can be an option for those with obesity without hypertension or coronary heart disease, and is a particularly good choice for those who do not tolerate orlistat or a GLP-1 agonist drug. Side effects may include increased heart rate, anxiety, insomnia, or disturbance in attention. The presence of topiramate in this combination may increase risk of birth defects, so it is critical for women of childbearing age to use reliable contraception when taking Qsymia.

Note: Qsymia is a controlled substance and cannot be prescribed by doctors at PlushCare.

Bupropion/Naltrexone

Bupropion/Naltrexone (trade name Contrave)- this combination inhibits Dopamine/Norepinephrine Reuptake in the brain and blocks opiate receptors. The end result of bupropion/naltrexone’s activity in the brain is a reduction in appetite and food cravings. Concerns related to this drug include elevated blood pressures, lowering of the seizure threshold in the brain, as well as headaches and nausea.

Plenity

Plenity is a capsule technically classified as a medical device rather than a drug, as it is not absorbed into the bloodstream. Approved in 2019 but not yet widely available, Plenity works by expanding in the stomach along with consuming 16 oz of water. Plenity is composed of cellulose and citric acid and forms a gel matrix after it is activated by water. Plenity does not absorb into your bloodstream. Plenity is able to be used for the management of excess weight in adults with a BMI of 25 to 40. This is a big advantage, as other weight loss medicines are generally approved for use only in those with a BMI over 27.

These are some of the most common weight loss medicines prescribed by doctors in the United States to assist with weight loss. The best outcomes with their use are seen when used in conjunction with eating changes and exercise.

Tirzepatide

Tirzepatide (Mounjaro) was recently FDA approved for the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes, but was also found to result in significant weight loss.  Therefore, it can be used as an off-label drug to reduce weight as well.

Prescription Weight Loss Drugs 

A number of weight loss medicines are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of overweight or obesity. Prescription weight loss medicines can only be prescribed by a doctor after a consultation. Be aware of weight loss schemes or fraudulent weight loss medicines dispensed from foreign pharmacies. Counterfeit weight loss medicines can be dangerous and cause serious harm. 

Prescription weight loss medicines are used to help people lose weight, but it is essential that the medications are used in conjunction with healthy eating, physical activity, and behavior modification, as medication usage without such changes are generally ineffective. 

If you are ready to take the next step in your weight loss journey, you can get prescribed weight loss medicines online after consultation with a board-certified physician, who can discuss the risks and benefits of medications with you.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

Can You Get Weight Loss Medication Online? 

Weight loss medicines are available online through an online doctor. A doctor can prescribe weight loss medicine after an initial consultation, any necessary testing, and if you qualify. If you need help losing weight, weight loss medicine may be right for you. 

Make an appointment today to speak with one of our doctors about weight loss treatment options.


Read More About Weight Loss Medicine

Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders. Prescription medications to treat overweight and obesity. Accessed on July 25, 2021 from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/prescription-medications-treat-overweight-obesity 

Mayo Clinic. Prescription weight loss drugs: Can they help you? Accessed on August 20, 2021 at https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss-drugs/art-20044832

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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