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Do I need medication to maintain weight loss?

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There is no miracle “diet pill” that will cure obesity—a disease that affects over 40% of Americans. But there are medications that are potential game-changers—some of which you may already be taking in your journey. However, you may have questions about how long you’ll have to take them and if medication will be a part of your everyday life moving forward. And although the answer to that is different for every individual, obesity is a chronic disease—meaning treatment needs to continue after reaching a goal to sustain weight loss. We talk about diabetes and insulin needing to be continually taken to keep blood sugar levels low, and the same goes for anti-obesity medication.

 And, as you probably know by now, 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). Rest assured, the prescriptions Found offers have all been shown to be safe and effective for long term use. Still have misgivings and questions about continuing medication even after reaching your goal weight? That’s fair! Here are some other things to consider during your weight care journey.

Obesity is a chronic, progressive 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 body weight. And those factors don’t just “go away” as soon as we lose weight—we consistently need to take those into account. Think about it like this: Doctors prescribe treatment plans for diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Obesity should be approached the same way: as a chronic disease that needs to be managed even after our weight goals are achieved.

How effective are weight-loss medications?

Although 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 to support a long-term weight care journey.

 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 tirzepatide achieved more weight loss than those taking the placebo, specifically—11.9% for 5-mg dose, 16.1% for 10-mg dose, and 17.8% for 15-mg dose. This means, depending on the dose, they had anywhere from 11.9% up to 17.8% more loss of body weight compared to the placebo. And because the study went on for over a year, the ultimate results could be much more. It’s important to note that by continuing to take medication, it can help treat obesity.

 But it doesn’t stop there. 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, for some, the type-2 diabetes medication metformin has been shown to improve weight loss over a 1-year span compared to a placebo, and if continued to be taken can help maintain that loss 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 may produce results, but without long-term use of the medication, weight loss isn’t sustainable.

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 your weight care journey is to sustain weight loss long term for the most health benefits. By using medication long term, you can support a healthy lifestyle. Much like medication for other diseases, weight loss medication supports weight care 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 supportive people in your life, it can treat obesity and help you win at weight care. 

Found offers a science-backed approach to weight care that's based on your unique biology, psychology, lifestyle, and prescription medication needs. Members receiving medication plus behavior change support from Found lost at least 13% more weight, and in some cases up to 229% more, compared to people receiving the same medication in clinical studies. To start your journey with Found, take our quiz.

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