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Do I need medication to maintain weight-loss?

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The words “diet pills” can sound scary. It might make you think of, say, the 90s fen-phen craze—that widely prescribed “miracle” drug that was eventually taken off the market for safety reasons. Plus, you know there’s no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to weight care. So being wary of diet pills, and wondering if prescription medication can actually help you reach your goals, is totally natural.

But Found treats obesity and overweight with a comprehensive approach. Your weight-loss plan is tailored just for you—and may or may not include medication. We’re talking about science-backed medication here. The prescriptions Found offers have all been shown to be safe and effective. Still have misgivings and questions? That’s fair! Here are some other things to consider when deciding whether medication is right for you.

Obesity is a disease.

Obesity is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States, killing an estimated 300,000 each year. This stems from conditions related to excess weight, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, obesity is killing more people than ever before, and intervention is necessary. 

 The idea that losing weight is only a matter of eating less and moving more is just plain wrong. Yes, diet and exercise are extremely important, but many other factors—like genetics and physiology—also affect weight care. And think about it: Doctors prescribe treatment plans for diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Obesity should be treated in the same way—as part of a holistic approach.

Who might need medication?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is typically used to determine if you’re eligible for weight-loss medication. According to NIH guidelines, if your BMI is greater than 30—or it’s 27 or higher, and you have a weight-related medical problem, like diabetes or high blood pressure—you could be a candidate. However, before prescribing anything, we’ll take into account other factors, like health history, current lifestyle, and your background and body type, to help guide the decision. (That’s because BMI alone may not be the most accurate indicator of medication need. For example, factors like muscle mass and race can put you in the wrong weight category.) 

Found looks at the whole picture to figure out what you need to succeed and will make any adjustments along the way based on your progress.

How effective are weight-loss medications?

Research is ongoing. “Lifestyle modifications remain the cornerstones of treatment. However, these measures alone are rarely enough for long-term weight loss and maintenance,” says Rekha Kumar, M.D., Found’s Chief Medical Officer. Prescription medication or bariatric surgery may be necessary for many patients.

 For example, in one ground-breaking 2022 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the medication tirzepatide (a type of GLP-1) produced impressive results. Over the course of 72 weeks, participants taking 5 mg, 10 mg, or 15 mg of this medication once a week lost a mean percentage of 15% of their body weight compared to those who were given a placebo.

 Other types of medications—topiramate and metformin—have also been shown to be highly effective for long-term weight loss. A review of studies involving topiramate found that participants who took the drug for 4-plus months lost almost 12 pounds more, on average, than those given a placebo. Additionally, the type-2 diabetes medication metformin has been shown to improve weight loss over a 3-year time span, compared to a placebo, and help participants maintain it for up to 15 years.

Do you need medication long term?

Yes, many people do. “Because obesity is a chronic disease, and you may need to continue your new eating and physical activity habits and other behaviors for years—or even a lifetime—to improve your health and maintain a healthier weight,” according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 

The Obesity Medicine Association says that, “long-term prescribing of medications constitutes the current standard of care for obesity treatment.” The reason, they add, is that short-term use of obesity medications hasn’t been proven to offer benefits. 

By some estimates, 85 percent of self-directed weight-loss efforts eventually lead to gaining back weight. Using medication for long-term weight management increases the odds of losing 5 to 10% of your body weight (sometimes more) and keeping it off. It can also lower your risk of diseases typically caused by obesity, like hypertension and type-2 diabetes. 

 The goal of our weight care journey is to sustain weight loss long term for the most health benefits. By using medication long term, we’re able to support a healthy lifestyle. Much like medication for other diseases, weight loss medication supports longevity and continues to provide benefits. And just like medication for other diseases—like diabetes, heart disease, and depression—they must be taken regularly and long term to continue providing the same benefits. It’s an important reminder that through long-term medication use, we can help treat obesity.

 Of course, medication isn't a miracle answer to weight loss. But coupled with movement, a healthy diet, and help from your Coach and the other supportive people in your life, it can treat obesity and help you win at weight care.

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