Weight Loss Medications



If you are considering weight loss medications (diet pills), the best studied are prescription weight-loss drugs. Many clinical trials have shown that when a person makes appropriate lifestyle changes, a prescription weight-loss drug increases the likelihood of achieving "clinically meaningful" weight loss within a year. This is defined as 5 percent or more decrease in body weight - enough to lower the risk of cardiovascular morbidity, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases.

A word of caution: Weight loss achieved in actual practice may be less than that documented in a research study. Also, side effects and adverse reactions to weight-loss pills can affect the treatment outcome.  Prescription weight-loss pills are only tools that may help with weight loss.  They may be beneficial, but won't be magical. They do not work for everyone, and their benefit may be modest.

Over-the-counter weight loss products: Different regulations affect the research, production and marketing of OTC products compared to FDA approved prescription drugs. This makes it difficult for us to make informed decisions about OTC weight loss products. Researchers know much less about the potential benefits and risks of over-the-counter weight-loss products, which fall into two general categories: 

A) Nonprescription drugs,

B) Dietary and herbal supplements:

a)For a nonprescription drug such as Orlistat (Alli), the drug company must provide the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with results from human (clinical) trials that show the safety and effectiveness of the drug at the nonprescription dose. Thus an OTC product like Alli is better researched and regulated than products in the other categories, which are dietary or herbal supplements.

b)For a dietary supplement, the manufacturer alone is responsible for ensuring the safety of the product, and for making honest claims about possible benefits. The maker's claims are not subject to FDA review or approval. Also, the quality of research used to support claims can vary. However, if the FDA can demonstrate that a substance is unsafe, it can ban the product or ask a manufacturer to withdraw it voluntarily. The FDA may also take action against a manufacturer if there is no evidence to support a claim.  When a dietary supplement is marketed as "clinically proven" to cause weight loss, there often is no clinical evidence to support it. Limited research makes it difficult to judge the safety of a weight-loss supplement. Remember that a product isn't necessarily safe simply because it's natural. For instance, Ephedra, or ma huang, an OTC herbal stimulant that was once used in weight-loss products was banned by the FDA in 2002 because of adverse effects, including mood changes, hypertension, irregular heart rate, stroke, seizures and heart attacks.

OTC weight loss products are mainly unproven & may not be effective.

  Apart from Alli, which is FDA tested and approved, most of the over the counter weight loss medications available from food stores, have not proven their efficacy.  Their safety cannot be assumed even when they are touted as ‘natural’ products, and they may also be quite expensive.  For these reasons, our advice is to avoid these products - with names like Garcinia Cambogia, Apple cider vinegar, Weight loss (green) tea, Liposa (Chitosan), Hydroxycut, Tonalin or Relora. While some of them are said to be ‘fat burners’ or 'metabolic stimulants,' the effects are marginal, and may be based mainly on a placebo effect. When a person strongly believes something will work, that substance frequently will seem to work. Placebo effects however do not last long!



It's important to do your homework if you're thinking about trying over-the-counter weight-loss pills. General information about many dietary supplements is available at the website of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicines.

In addition, the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database summarizes research regarding dietary supplements and herbal products. Although the database is only available by subscription, you may be able to access it through a public library.



If you are considering weight-loss medications, be sure to talk with our physician, especially if you have health problems, if you take prescription drugs, are pregnant or breast-feeding. It is important to get correct advice from an experienced physician like Dr Oladele Olusanya on the possible interactions the weight loss medication you may want to use may have with your current prescribed medications, over the counter drugs, or vitamins. 



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