It’s late one night, and in a haze of tiredness and frustration, you start Googling “medication for weight loss.” You’ve tried All The Diets, and nothing has worked, so you’re surfing for other answers. The search results slam you with options and words describing different medications as “magic” or “a miracle.”
It’s hard to know what to trust (ahem, nothing that claims to be magic—just saying!) and what path to take. Which medication for weight loss may be right for you? Which ones actually get results? Read on, friend. We’ve got the research-based answers to your questions:
Sometimes, yes. For a long time, the focus was just on lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet and exercising. But research has shown that these may not be enough to result in long-term weight loss and maintenance.
Experts now know that weight management requires an approach that accounts for all the factors that affect your weight, not just lifestyle. It turns out up to 80% of your weight may depend on biological factors such as metabolism, hormones, and genes. This means that for many people trying to reach a healthy weight, things entirely out of their control play a significant role in success. And that’s where medication for weight loss can come in.
Evidence suggests that adults taking prescription weight-loss drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for long-term use (more than 12 weeks) may lose significantly more weight than those not on the meds. And combining weight-loss medication and lifestyle changes results in more significant weight loss than lifestyle changes, such as calorie restrictions and exercise.
Medical experts agree that medication can be an important part of achieving long-term weight loss for people who haven't been able to lose weight through diet and exercise alone. This is especially true among those who meet one of the following criteria:
A body mass index (BMI) greater than 30
A BMI greater than 27 and serious medical problems related to obesity, such as diabetes or high blood pressure
Obesity is a disease, and it needs to be treated as such. Adding medication for weight loss to your healthy eating and exercise plan might be the nudge you need to meet your weight loss goals.
Various medications for weight loss work in different ways: Some reduce your appetite by stimulating the central nervous system and affecting your cravings. Others increase levels of two chemical messengers in the brain that signal satisfaction and feelings of fullness, so you may want to eat less. And some work in your stomach and gastrointestinal tract to prevent fat absorption from foods.
The National Academy of Medicine notes that some medications used to treat blood sugar levels, depression, alcohol dependence, and smoking cessation may be used for other purposes, including weight loss.
“When we prescribe medicine for weight care, these medicines are meant for long-term use. Medicine is not a quick fix, or a crutch, or shortcut. We’re managing the biology of obesity,” says Rekha Kumar, MD, Found’s Chief Medical Officer and former medical director of the American Board of Obesity Medicine.
She adds that the analogy to keep in mind is the chronic disease model: With conditions like type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, or heart disease, you usually don’t stop taking medication when the problem stops. So it’s important to continue to treat chronic health conditions. Weight care works the same. The equation must include all the pieces for long-term success —health, nutrition, physical activity, and medicine.
According to a study published in the medical journal JAMA, “obesity medications approved for long-term use when prescribed with lifestyle interventions, produce additional weight loss relative to placebo.” The objective is to maintain your health goals. Work with your health care provider about the best course of long-term treatment because there are options like using a lower dosage or cycling on and off for a set amount of time.
Found health care professionals offer a variety of safe, effective medications to use for weight loss, such as semaglutide, naltrexone, bupropion, Saxenda, and more, that can be tailored based on your unique needs. Some are brand-name pharmaceuticals, and others are generic. By offering generic medications with the same clinical benefits and strict quality standards, Found ensures its members have access to affordable weight-related care.
Found is among the largest medically-supported weight care clinics in the country, serving more than 200,000 members to date. To start your journey with Found, take our quiz.