FDA-Approved Weight Loss Drugs: Can They Help You?
The Obesity Crisis: A National Epidemic
These numbers are especially astounding because obesity is the second leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S. In addition, being overweight or obese is a recognized risk factor for many health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and certain cancers.
The Skinny on Weight Loss: Is There a Magic Pill?
Weight loss agents are available on the U.S. market that can help patients lose 3 to 9 percent of their weight when combined with diet and exercise. Be sure to talk to your doctor for sound advice before starting any weight loss program.
What is a BMI?
In general, you should not use weight loss medications unless you are at risk for a health-related condition. A low-fat diet and regular exercise are part of the weight-loss regimen that should be continued even if weight loss medicines are stopped.
Qsymia And Belviq
In clinical trials, Qsymia weight loss was on average 8.9 percent greater than for those taking placebo. Adults taking Belviq had an average weight loss that was 3-3.7 percent greater than placebo. Both Qsymia and Belviq are C-IV controlled substances. Neither drug is approved for use in children.
Contrave And Saxenda
With Saxenda, the approved in December 2014, the average weight loss that patients in clinical trials experienced was 4.5 percent from baseline weight compared to placebo treatment over one year.
How Does Qsymia Work?
The drug is used for weight control in two groups: either those who are obese (BMI of 30 or higher), or those who are overweight (BMI of at least 27) and also have at least one weight-related condition, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. The Qsymia dose is taken once daily in morning; patients should avoid an evening dose as it may keep them awake.
Important Facts About Qsymia
Do not use Qsymia if you have glaucoma, thyroid disease or use monoamine oxidase inhibitor drugs. If you have not lost a certain percent of your weight after 12 weeks, your doctor may decide to stop Qsymia treatment, but you may need to stop treatment slowly.
What Are the Most Common Side Effects with Qsymia?
Common side effects with Qsymia may include
- numbness or a tingling sensation
- unusual taste
- difficulty sleeping
- dry mouth
How Does Belviq Work in Weight Loss?
Belviq and Belviq XR are approved to be used in the same two patients groups as Qsymia: either obese patients, or overweight patients with at least one weight-related condition. Patients taking Belviq should not exceed a dose of 10 mg two times a day. Patients using the longer-acting Belviq XR take the 20 mg dose once-a-day. The Belviq XR tablet must be swallowed whole and must NOT be chewed, crushed, or divided. Exceeding the normal dose of lorcaserin may lead to psychiatric side effects.
Belviq Safety & Side Effect Facts
Common side effects may include headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth, and constipation. As with Qsymia, low blood sugar may occur in type 2 diabetic patients. Do not use weight loss drugs of any type in pregnancy.
Approval and Safety of Orexigen's Contrave
Contrave is used in obese or overweight adults with at least one weight-related condition such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes. Safety and side effect concerns include behavioral changes, suicidal thoughts, seizure risk, and added effects with alcohol, among others. Do not drink alcohol with Contrave.
As with the other prescription weight loss products, Saxenda is for obese or overweight patients based on their BMI with at least one weight-related condition such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol. Again, the average weight loss was 4.5 percent from baseline weight compared to treatment with a placebo (inactive pill) at one year.
Alli: A Lower-Dose, OTC Version of Prescription Xenical
Alli decreases the absorption of dietary fat by about 25 percent and therefore reduces the number of calories absorbed. However, clinical trials have only shown it to be modestly effective; in general, a weight loss of 3 to 5 pounds per year would be expected over and above what you might lose from dieting and exercise alone. Alli should be used in adults only and do not exceed three capsules per day.
Alli: Use and Side Effects
Side effects with Alli often hinder its use: loose stools, oily spotting, gas, bowel incontinence, and rarely liver injury (jaundice) may occur. Symptoms of liver injury include yellow skin or eyes, itching, brown urine and stomach pain.
Stimulant Weight Loss Drugs
Often, the weight that is lost with stimulants may be regained when the medication is stopped. In contrast, Alli, Contrave, Belviq, Belviq XR, and Qsymia are all approved for long-term use in weight loss.
Are OTC Herbal Weight Loss Pills Safe and Effective?
FDA does investigate OTC supplements if they appear to be causing harm; FDA removed dietary products with the stimulant ephedra from the market in 2004 due to dangerous side effects like heart attack, stroke and seizures.
Finished: FDA-Approved Weight Loss Drugs: Can They Help You?
- Adult Obesity Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Accessed 9/18/2016 at https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
- Belviq XR [package insert]. Woodcliff Lake, NJ: Eisai Pharmaceuticals. July 2016. Accessed 9/18/2016 at http://www.belviqxr.com/pdf/belviqxr_prescribing_information.pdf
- Saxenda [package insert]. Plainsboro, NJ: Novo Nordisk Inc.. December 2014. Accessed 9/18/2016 at https://www.saxenda.com/
- Qsymia [package insert]. Mountain View, CA: Vivus, Inc.; 10/2014. Accessed 9/18/2016 at https://qsymia.com/patient/include/media/pdf/prescribing-information.pdf.