It’s understandable to get frustrated when your weight-loss progress grinds to a screeching halt. You’re making some big lifestyle changes, and you should be seeing some big results, right? You were feeling more confident. Your clothes were fitting better. But now…argh!
Before we jump into what we came here to talk about—namely, medication and how it has revolutionized weight care—let’s touch on why you may need to take a prescription drug in the first place.
When progress stalls, it’s easy to point the finger at yourself and think you just need to eat less and move more. But there’s good evidence that it’s not that simple. In fact, it’s normal for weight loss to slow. This is partly due to the nature of having excess weight or obesity—and human biology, often referred to as your body’s set point. The good news is that these factors don’t have to stand in the way of your goals. You can actually outsmart your body. How? By adding medication—if it’s right for you—and continuing your healthy diet and exercise habits.
In fact, research shows that a combination of medication and lifestyle modifications results in more weight loss than doing just one of them alone. In a one-year trial, participants using medication and lifestyle changes lost, on average, almost 27 pounds compared to 11 pounds for those only on medication and nearly 15 pounds for those who focused on diet, exercise, and other daily habits.
But did you know that only six drugs are approved by the FDA for long-term use in weight management? Crazy, huh? Here’s the exciting thing: Other FDA-approved medications can be prescribed off-label for weight care. And that gives health care providers and patients many more options.
The medications that Found prescribes are all FDA-approved and effective. However, your provider may treat a disease—in this case, obesity—with a medication approved for a different condition or at a different dose. This is called off-label prescribing. And it’s a very common practice—and not just for weight care, but all sorts of conditions. It allows providers to use their clinical judgment based on scientific and medical evidence. For example, metformin, a drug approved by the FDA for the management of diabetes, has also been found to help with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and weight management.
The simple answer: Medication-assisted weight loss wouldn’t be the same without off-label prescribing. It allows providers to work with a broader range of medications to individualize treatment plans. It also makes weight care more accessible when there are lots of different options to choose from. Plus, prescribing off-label (especially when the medications are generic) can make weight care more affordable, since most brand-name weight-loss medications are pricey and often aren’t covered by insurance.
Another reason doctors prescribe off-label is that it can take a long time—we’re talking years and years—to get a drug approved for each condition. During this long wait, discoveries in the medical field often outpace the FDA process to green-light medications for all of their uses. And the approval process is expensive for drug manufacturers even when there’s scientific evidence that a medication can treat other conditions.
Using a drug off-label can also help with other health problems. For example, naltrexone (approved for treating alcohol use disorder), bupropion (prescribed depression or smoking cessation), and topiramate (an epilepsy and migraine drug) not only treat the conditions they’re approved for but also have been found to aid in weight loss. People taking these medications may experience side effects, and these medications are not advised for those with certain conditions or risk factors. Serious risks include suicidality and other psychiatric disorders (bupropion), overdose if taken with opioids or opiates (naltrexone), and lactic acidosis (metformin). Find detailed side effect and risk information for these and other medications by name here or ask your healthcare provider.
Clinical trials have shown that these medications work well for off-label use. In fact, some prescribed off-label for weight loss are in many brand-name versions approved for weight loss.
The healthy habits you create are all important things to focus on during a weight care journey—but they may not always be enough. Sometimes medication is needed to manage the biology of obesity, and off-label prescribing makes this possible.
It’s important to work with your provider and keep them updated throughout your weight care journey. Adjustments may need to be made as you begin to experience weight loss or get close to your goal. It’s also important to keep them in the loop on how you are feeling to ensure your medication is right for you—and work together to find a better fit if it’s not. That’s the great thing about off-label prescribing; there are so many options open to you!
GLP-1 prescriptions, filled through your local pharmacy, are now available as part of Found's weight-loss toolkit. While GLP-1s are effective for weight loss, they are not clinically appropriate for everyone. Eligibility for a GLP-1 is based on a thorough evaluation of your medical history, eating behavior, lab work, and insurance coverage. If a GLP-1 is not appropriate for you, our providers will work with you to determine an effective medication for your health profile.
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.