Weight Loss Medications: What You Need to Know

In Alice in Wonderland, Alice eats a piece of mushroom that makes her small. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was something you could consume that would make you slimmer? It turns out such a thing might exist.

Weight loss medications have taken the world by storm. Studies show that certain drugs taken for weight loss helped participants maintain an average weight loss of 10.6% over 3 to 5 years. These injections and pills work especially well when conjoined with healthy lifestyle choices. That amounts to 20 pounds of excess weight loss for someone weighing 200 pounds or 35 pounds for someone weighing 350 pounds.

It just so happens that a 5% to 10% loss of excess weight can significantly improve your health. Individuals who lose that weight are 22% less likely to develop metabolic syndrome. That encompassing term describes several risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Read our article: Weight Loss Medication vs. Bariatric Surgery – Which Works Best?

Weight Loss Drugs Have Come a Long Way

In the early 1990s, doctors thought they had developed the ever-elusive “magic pill” by combining phentermine and fenfluramine, more commonly known as fen-phen. Patients who took fen-phen experienced the miracle of fast-melting fat. But then, a couple of years later, patients who took the drug began to develop frightening side effects such as heart valve malfunction leading to heart failure and high blood pressure. In some cases, these side effects proved to be fatal.

The side effects became so common that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) encouraged drug makers to halt the production of weight loss drugs. For some patients, the fears of side effects and death persist today because of the horror stories published nearly thirty years ago.

However, the new batch of weight loss drugs is safe and effective. These medicines won’t make a morbidly obese patient as thin as a model. But taking them will shave off enough excess pounds to stave off heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and elevated cholesterol.

What’s the Deal with Wegovy?

Wegovy is an FDA-approved weight loss drug for adults and teens. The medicine helps individuals who take it regularly lose 14.7% of their starting body weight. That amounts to a little over 44 pounds for someone with a starting weight of 300 pounds. Data from the Mayo Clinic showed that patients who combine Wegovy injections with healthy lifestyle choices resulted in an average loss of 33.7 pounds in 68 weeks.

Wegovy is a brand name. The drug is called semaglutide, an injection originally formulated to treat type 2 diabetes. The weekly injection suppresses your appetite, making you feel like you recently ate and allowing you to concentrate on your goals instead of your next meal.

Doctors soon noticed that significant weight loss was a surprising and positive side effect of the monthly injection. Semaglutide works by telling the pancreas to secrete a greater amount of insulin to control blood sugar. The drug, developed by pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, eventually developed trials to study the medication’s impact as a tool to treat obesity.

Is Mounjaro as Effective as Wegovy?

Mounjaro is a new drug developed by Eli Lilly, hailed as a long-sought-after way to transform obesity treatment. Like Wegovy, the weekly injection makes you less hungry overall. Created for diabetes but off-label prescribed for obesity at higher doses, Mounjaro has been shown to induce weight loss of 15% to 22% of body weight on average. FDA approval for the drug is in the works and is expected to be completed this year. A study reported on CNN showed that participants lost an average of between 35 and 52 pounds. Mounjaro costs between $1,000 and $1,100 per prescription.

What Other Medications Are Effective for Weight Loss?

Orlistat (Xenical)

Xenical is a pill that stops your body from breaking down fat in your gut. This limits the number of calories your body can absorb. With you consuming fewer calories, the excess weight melts away. The weight loss drug can cause you to lose between 4 to 6 pounds—orlistat costs between $278.30 and $669.49 per prescription.

Bupropion/Naltrexone (Contrave)

Contrave combines two medications in a pill. Bupropion is a medication for depression. Naltrexone blocks the brain’s reward system. The medications reduce your propensity to overeat, helping you lose weight fast. You can lose between 8 and 13 pounds by taking Contrave—this weight loss medication costs between $521.82 and $643.70 for each prescription.

Liraglutide (Saxenda)

Saxenda is given by injection once per day. The weight loss medicine slows food down as it traverses your digestive system. You end up feeling fuller faster when eating. You also eat less overall. You can lose between 8 and 13 pounds on Saxenda. This drug costs between $1,300 and $1,400 per prescription.

Phentermine/topiramate (Qsymia)

Qsymia combines phentermine and topiramate in a pill, which decreases the appetite. You eat less without feeling deprived, helping you lose weight fast. You can lose between 16 and 22 pounds by taking Qsymia—this weight loss pill costs between $199.00 and $204.00 per prescription.

Phentermine (Adipex-P)

Adipex P is a pill that suppresses your appetite and helps you eat less. The weight loss medicine can only be taken briefly, customarily for a few weeks, before it is stopped. By taking the drug, you stand to lose around 8 pounds. Adipex-P is affordable at between $8.97 and $22.27 for a prescription.

Why Don’t More People Take Weight Loss Medications?

Cost is a major deterrent for many when it comes to weight loss medicines. Wegovy, for example, costs around $1,300 per month. The cost becomes even more cumbersome when many insurance companies in the United States refuse to cover the costs. Unfortunately, insurance companies are known to misunderstand the causes of obesity and still view weight loss medications as “vanity drugs.” Deterrents such as cost have led to the disappointing statistics of only 1 in 50 eligible individuals accessing these health-improving and life-saving drugs.

An organization known as the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) is actively lobbying to make weight loss drugs more affordable. The OAC is pushing pharmaceuticals like Eli Lilly to make these medicines more available to everyday Americans. Eli Lilly has answered by developing a bridging program for Mounjaro. Mounjaro (tirzepatide) is a drug formulated for type 2 diabetes but is shown to also work for weight loss. The bridging program has made the medication available for as little as $25 for three months. Pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk has a similar program for the ever-popular Wegovy.

How Fast Do Weight Loss Medications Begin to Work?

According to studies by the University of Utah, most people taking weight loss medications manage to lose an average of one to two pounds per week. It can take one to two weeks for this level of weight loss to begin.

Taking a Weight Loss Drug is Not Enough for Healthier Living

Doctors recommend that weight loss drugs should always be considered supplements to diet and exercise. The American Heart Association, Obesity Society, and the American College of Cardiology agree.

Steven R. Peikin, in his book The Complete Book of Diet Drugs: Everything You Need to Know About Today’s Weight Loss Products, said it well when he wrote, “While drugs will make it much easier to reduce the number of calories in the diet by suppressing appetite and reducing food cravings, or by preventing dietary fat absorption, they will not do all the work necessary to lose weight successfully and permanently.” Peikin points to the three components necessary for weight loss and control: “A sensible eating plan, an exercise program, and behavior modification.”

The book Weight-Loss Drugs by Suellen May and D.J. Triggle goes further. “Despite the efficacy of weight-loss drugs, the likelihood of losing significant weight without increasing exercise or making dietary changes is unlikely. For this reason, patients should always incorporate some form of exercise and dieting as part of their weight loss plan.”

Please read our article: The Dietary and Exercise Lifestyle Changes to Adopt for Weight-Loss Surgery Success!

What are the Side Effects of Diet Drugs?

In the book The Dangers of Diet Drugs, Christina Gatti, Christina McMahon, and Hal Macovitz wrote, “Whenever someone takes a medication or dietary supplement, they risk experiencing adverse side effects. The body may suffer a reaction to the drug or supplement, or the drug may interact dangerously with other drugs, supplements, or food that the person has consumed. Mild adverse reactions to diet drugs and weight-loss dietary supplements have included dizziness, headaches, nausea, and mood changes. More dangerous and deadly reactions to these substances are increased blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, seizures, and kidney or liver failure.”

Are You a Suitable Candidate for Weight Loss Medications?

Studies show that gaining weight can change your body and brain. Research shows that gaining weight can affect functional skills and increase the risk of developing dementia. Gaining weight can also affect your personality. People who gain more than 10% of their body weight develop impulsivity and the inability to resist temptation. Physically, weight gain can affect many hormones, including a decrease in testosterone, an increase in estrogen, an increase in ghrelin (the hunger hormone), and a resistance to leptin (the fullness hormone).

Read our article: Does Gastric Sleeve Surgery Affect Hormones?

Even if you starve yourself, limiting your calories is not enough to reverse these changes. If you have tried everything to lose weight, including all the diets and exercise programs, weight loss medications could help you control the disease of obesity.

Weight Loss Medications Could Help You. Schedule a Consultation to Learn More.

By now, you know that weight loss medications not only exist, but they are also fairly safe and effective. The hardest part about taking these drugs is refraining from downing the whole bottle to achieve faster results.

These drugs are a blessing for anyone who has found themselves on a never-ending diet and exercise merry-go-round.

Mark Twain once wrote, “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.” Replace smoking with dieting, and you are now wearing the shoes of the average person suffering from obesity. Cutting calories only makes you ravenously hungry and makes you feel so weak exercise is out of the question.

Instead of opening the fridge dozens of times daily, weight loss medications help you forget about food for a while. This allows you to lose weight fast.

When it comes to exercise, these medicines can give you the fuel you need to work out regularly. As they say, “Sweat is fat crying.” Make that fat suffer by getting regular exercise, and you will lose significantly more weight while taking these weight-loss drugs.

Take these drugs while watching what you eat and moving your body regularly, and you will improve your health and longevity.

Want to know if any of these amazing weight loss drugs are right for you? While you shouldn’t expect to shrink as fast as Alice in Wonderland after eating a piece of mushroom, you can lose significant weight.

You can learn more by calling Healthy Life Bariatrics. You are encouraged to schedule a consultation with world-renowned bariatric surgeon Doctor Babak Moeinolmolki. Book your appointment today by dialing (310)881-8503. Just think, in a week or two, you could slim down. Do this for yourself in the New Year.

Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki
January 16, 2023
Dr. Babak Moeinolmolki
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