Weight loss drugs might sound like the easy option to take to lose weight. But you should consider other methods before using weight loss drugs. The best way of losing weight is the natural way – through dieting and exercise. However, some people struggle to lose weight. They do all the right things, but the weight does not come off.
If you are one of these people, then you might consider weight loss drugs to help achieve a clinical significant weight loss. Weight loss drugs are not meant to be used by the Jacks and Jills who just want to lose a few pounds for cosmetic reasons. You can benefit from weight loss drugs if you are obese, and this obesity is causing health problems.
Weight-loss drugs should not replace the need for changes in your eating habits or activity level.
Practitioners may recommend weight loss drugs to different classes of people including:
- Patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more,
- Overweight patients with a BMI of 27 or more who either lack “good” HDL cholesterol, have too much “bad” LDL cholesterol, are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, have a high blood pressure, or have sleep apnea
- People who have tried other weight loss methods, and failed
Common drugs available on the market
Some commonly available drugs are listed below. This list is by no means exhaustive. The first two are available on the NHS, if you meet their criteria.
- Sibutramine (Meridia (US) /Reductil (UK)). This drug changes your brain chemistry, making you feel full more quickly. Typical dosage is 10 milligrams (mg) once a day. Possible side-effects include increased blood pressure, headache, dry mouth, constipation and insomnia.
- Orlistat (Xenical). Prevents the absorption of fat in your intestines. Normal dosage is 120 mg three times a day. Possible side effects include frequent oily bowel movements, diarrhea, bloating and abdominal pain.
- Rimonabant (Acomplia). Works by blocking the endocannabinoid system in the brain which regulates hunger. This stifles hunger and cravings. You take 1 pill a day. Possible side effects include dizziness, nausea, anxiety, diarrhea and insomnia.
During tests sibutramine and orlistat users typically achieved weight losses of 3-4 percent over a year. Rimonabant users typically achieved 5-10%, with almost 40% achieving 10% weight loss. Rimonabant is not expected to be on the NHS within the next two years due to its cost (£55 per patient per month).
The downside to weight loss drugs
Once you start taking a weight-loss drug, you’ll likely need to take it indefinitely. When you stop drug treatment, however, much or all of the lost weight generally returns, unless you have changed your lifestyle.
The dilemma with taking the drugs indefinitely is that the most common weight-loss drugs are so new that possible long-term effects are unknown.