Weight loss medications can be an option for people looking to lose weight in conjunction with diet and exercise. However, it's important to understand how these medications work, as well as their potential side effects and costs. As a family doctor, I have been all for helping people lose weight with these supplemental medications. Weight loss medications can be a help for people with a BMI of 30 or higher, or a BMI of 27-30 if you already have a weight related disease like hypertension or diabetes mellitus type 2.
One type of weight loss medication is a prescription weight loss pill. These pills, such as Orlistat and Phentermine, work by inhibiting the absorption of fat in the body or suppressing appetite. These medications can be effective, but they can also have side effects such as diarrhea, stomach pain, and nausea. The Phentermine is also a controlled drug, and has restrictions on prescribing. Prescription weight loss pills can also be expensive, with costs ranging from $20 to $100 per month.
Another option is weight loss injections, such as Saxenda, Ozempic, and Wegovy. These injections work by slowing down digestion and increasing feelings of fullness. Side effects may include nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain, and the injections can be costly, with monthly costs ranging from $800-$2000, if not covered on insurance. Mounjaro (tirzapatide) has shown that it can be as effective as gastric bypass surgery and they may be approved specifically for weight loss by the spring.
Weight loss surgery, such as gastric bypass or gastric sleeve surgery, is another option for those who have not had success with other methods. These surgeries work by physically altering the digestive system to limit the amount of food that can be consumed and absorbed. While weight loss surgery can be effective, it is a major procedure with significant risks and costs, and it is usually only recommended for those who are severely obese.
Overall, weight loss medications can be a helpful addition to a weight loss plan, but it's important to consider the potential side effects and costs. It's also important to work with a healthcare provider to determine the best course of action for your individual needs and goals.