What are Anti-Obesity Drugs?

Vanessa Harvey

Anti-obesity drugs are medications formulated to reduce or control weight. These pharmacological treatments are prescribed by a medical doctor. They generally are reserved for cases of life-threatening obesity and not for patients who are simply dieting. This strictness of use is because of the alteration of vital processes that take place in the body when these drugs are taken. The processes that can be affected include normal stimulation of the appetite, an increase in the body's metabolism and interference with the absorption of some nutrients.

Patients taking anti-obesity drugs should be aware of the health risks involved with such medications.
Patients taking anti-obesity drugs should be aware of the health risks involved with such medications.

The brain has what is known as cannabinoid receptors, which are involved in the normal stimulation of the appetite. Some studies have shown that anti-obesity drugs that interfere with or block these receptors have produced dangerous side effects. Depression that might be severe enough to cause suicidal thoughts in some patients was one of the reasons why the United States' Food and Drug Administration refused to approve a drug called Acomplia®. Other anti-obesity drugs affect a partial or total block of the breakdown of fats, thereby inhibiting proper absorption of fat. Although morbidly obese people usually have a need to decrease their intake of fatty foods, fats nevertheless are nutrients vital for proper health.

Anti-obesity drugs may be prescribed to reduce weight.
Anti-obesity drugs may be prescribed to reduce weight.

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Generally, most medical doctors attempt to achieve healthy weight loss in their patients via proper diet, regular physical exercise and modification of behavior. If such methods fail to reduce weight by at least 10 percent after three months of following a weight loss program, anti-obesity drugs might be prescribed. Obese people who take these drugs are still urged to naturally control weight with a healthy diet, a regular exercise plan and changes in eating habits.

Anti-obesity drugs may be needed to help a person lose weight for the sake of their health.
Anti-obesity drugs may be needed to help a person lose weight for the sake of their health.

There are two types of anti-obesity drugs: those that affect the gastrointestinal system and those that affect the central nervous system. Anti-obesity drugs that affect the gastrointestinal system, such as orlistat, are pancreatic lipase inhibitors because they interfere with the proper absorption of fats. Those that affect the central nervous system work to suppress a person's appetite.

Before turning to anti-obesity drugs, physicians typically advise patients to exercise more and to eat a nutritious but calorie-restricted diet.
Before turning to anti-obesity drugs, physicians typically advise patients to exercise more and to eat a nutritious but calorie-restricted diet.

Adequate weight loss is not usually achieved with drugs, which is why some nutritionists discourage their use in most cases. Patients who are prescribed such medications might want to ensure that they're receiving proper attention by considering certain aspects of their care. Their care usually should be overseen by health care providers trained in the management of obesity. They should be aware of specific weight loss goals that they need to meet and should be encouraged to do physical exercise on a regular basis. All patients taking anti-obesity drugs might want to be fully aware of the health risks involved with such medications.

There are some all natural alternatives to anti-obesity drugs in the form of herbs such as chickweed. Substances known as saponins are present in chickweed and help to dissolve fat and assist in the balancing of the body's metabolism. The side effects associated with taking chemical drugs are very rarely observed when taking all-natural herbal medicines to help reduce weight.

Anti-obesity drugs might be used in tandem with exercise regimens.
Anti-obesity drugs might be used in tandem with exercise regimens.

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Discussion Comments

ddljohn

How long do people generally take anti-obesity drugs? If they stop taking them, do they gain the weight back?

I think the kind of obesity these drugs target is chronic obesity and they would have to take medicines all the time in order to maintain a healthy weight. Just like high blood pressure patients or diabetes patients. If you don't keep taking the medicine, you will be back where you started, right?

burcinc

I'm not a big fan of obesity drugs either. I do realize though that there are a lot of people who are unable to lose weight because of genetic reasons. It's hard for us to understand how difficult it must be for them. If they take medicines, they might face some negative effects, but remaining obese is also bringing them closer to death.

What can they do? They could have surgery, but not everyone has health insurance that covers that. Weight loss drugs are more affordable.

bear78

I have never tried medication to lose weight because I have not heard very good things about them. Even though weight loss drugs are meant to be prescribed and overseen by doctors, there are plenty of over-the-counter ones available.

My mom used to work in the pharmacy department of a large store and she told me once that almost every week, a new weight loss diet is added to counters, only to be taken down one or two weeks later because the FDA found dangerous side-effects.

The other negative impression I got about anti-obesity drugs was from my landlord. His wife often traveled to her sister's house to help take care of her. My landlord said that his sister in law took weight loss medication for a year and her heart started to fail. The drug was pulled off the counters, she sued the company and won a huge sum. But none of it makes a difference because she lost her health and is literally waiting to die.

Now I don't know the details of her treatment, nor which specific brand medications these were. But from what I understand, weight loss medications are dangerous and should be avoided.

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