Prescription Weight-Loss Medicines
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Do prescription weight-loss medicines really work?
When combined with a reduced-calorie diet and regular physical activity, prescription weight-loss medicines can help obese people lose weight. People who use these drugs may not feel as hungry, or they may feel full after eating only a small amount of food.
What types of prescription weight-loss medicines are available?
In Canada, there are 2 weight loss medications approved: orlistat and liraglutide. Orlistat works by keeping your body from digesting some of the fat that you eat. Liraglutide supresses (decreases) appetite.
Although some weight-loss supplements containing ephedra, ephedrine or caffeine are available without a prescription and online, these products are not certified for use by Health Canada. Such supplements have been linked to reports of heart attack, seizure, stroke and death. It is important to contact your healthcare provider if you are considering taking a weight-loss supplement or if you are already taking one.
Are prescription weight-loss medicines used for people who are just slightly overweight?
No. Prescription weight-loss medicines are only for people who are very obese. Most of these medicines are designed for people who weigh 20% or more above what is ideal for their height and body type or who have a high body mass index (BMI). The BMI is a measure of your weight and height. Your healthcare provider can tell you if prescription weight-loss medicines might be helpful for you.
Are there any side effects from using prescription weight-loss medicines?
Yes, there are possible side effects associated with prescription weight-loss medicines. Common side effects may include the following:
- Dry mouth
- Abdominal pain
- Sleep problems (such as insomnia and very intense dreams)
Orlistat may cause gas, frequent or uncontrollable bowel movements, diarrhea and oily stools. In rare cases, orlistat may cause serious liver injury. Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you take orlistat and notice any of the following symptoms of liver injury:
- Itching skin
- Yellow eyes or skin
- Urine that is brown or dark-colored
- Pale-colored stool
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
Sometimes other weight-loss medicines also can have serious side effects, such as high blood pressure. Your healthcare provider can tell you more about these side effects.
How can I avoid gaining weight back when I stop using the medicine?
There is no easy cure for being overweight. Prescription weight-loss medicines can help you get off to a good start, but once you stop taking them, the weight you lost may come back. To keep the weight off, you must eat a healthy diet and be physically active on a regular basis. You must continue these healthy habits even after you stop taking the medicine. Remember that losing weight and keeping it off is a lifelong effort.
Do I have to use prescription weight-loss medicines to lose weight?
No. If you decide weight-loss medicines aren’t right for you, you can still meet your weight-loss goals. It’s important to develop healthy eating habits, but don’t expect to change everything overnight. Start by training yourself to eat without doing anything else at the same time. For example, don’t eat while you watch TV. Focus on what you’re eating. Try to eat slowly.
Next, change what and how much you eat. Your healthcare provider can help you create a low-calorie diet plan that will help you lose weight.
It is also important to be physically active. A good goal for many people is to work up to exercising for at 150 minutes per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Regular exercise helps you burn calories faster, even when you are sitting still. Exercise also helps you burn fat and build muscle.
Aerobic exercise raises your heart rate and helps you burn calories. Aerobic exercises include swimming, brisk walking, jogging and bicycling. Anaerobic exercise, such as weight training, is also good because it adds muscle mass to your body. Muscle burns calories faster than fat.
Be sure to contact your healthcare provider before you begin an exercise program. They can help you create an exercise plan that will help you meet your goals.