The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.
Medications for obesity should not be used alone. Rather, they should be part of a comprehensive weight loss program that includes: Reduced caloric intakeRegular exercise and other behavior changes
Medications approved for adults include: LorcaserinPhenterminePhendimetrazineDiethylpropionPhentermine plus extended release topiramate
Medications approved for children and adolescents include: Amphetamine sulfate (for children over 11 years old)Phentermine or diethylpropion (for children over 16 years old only)
These medications act on your brain to suppress your appetite. Lorcaserin is approved for long-term use. Phentermine, phendimetrazine and diethylpropion are only recommended for short-term use (a few weeks).
Possible side effects include: LightheadednessDry mouthHeadache Constipation or diarrheaNauseaNervousnessSleeplessnessRestlessnessElevated blood pressureHeart problems
Phentermine and amphetamine sulfate:
Phentermine plus extended release topiramate
Numbness or tingling of skinChange in tasteDepression
Orlistat: Xenical (prescription)Alli (over-the-counter)
Approved for use in children and adults over 11 years old. Taken at a dose of 120 milligrams (mg), 3 times a day, Xenical prevents ingested fat from being absorbed by blocking digestive enzymes. About 30% of the fat you eat will remain in your bowels. In some, the fat is excreted by the body between bowel movements as an oily discharge.
It is recommended for long-term use (up to about 2 years). Orlistat is also available in a 60 mg over-the-counter form, called Alli.
Possible side effects include: Staining of underwearGasPressure to empty bowelsLeakage of stoolIncreased frequency of bowel movementsSevere liver damage (rarely)
Liraglutide is used for chronic weight management if you have at least one other weight-related complication. It works by making you feel less hungry or fuller faster while eating. The medication is given as a daily injection. Dosage is slowly increased until you are up to 3 mg a day.
Possible side effects may include: NauseaConstipationDiarrheaAbdominal painHeadacheIncreased heart rateSerious side effects may include an increased risk of pancreatitis.
Used for chronic weight management in combination with a reduce calorie diet and regular exercise. The pill is a combination of 2 drugs. It works by making you feel less hungry or fuller faster while eating. The medication is extended release tablet taken by mouth. Dosage is slowly increased from one table to 2 tablets a day.
This medication is not recommended in those with a history of poorly controlled high blood pressure, or a history of seizures, eating disorders (anorexia or bulimia), opioid dependency, or alcohol and drug withdrawal. If you are already taking bupropion for other reasons, do not take this medication.
Possible side effects include: LightheadednessConstipationDiarrheaNausea or vomitingDry mouthSleeplessnessIncreased heart rateElevated blood pressureSerious side effects may include liver damage
NOTE: This medication may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or actions. If you have these thoughts or actions, call for emergency medical services right away.
OTC medications advertised as promoting weight loss, except for Alli, are generally considered ineffective.
Some have led to serious side effects. Do not use over-the-counter or herbal remedies without talking to your doctor.
If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines: Take the medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.Ask what side effects could occur. Report them to your doctor.Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medication.Do not share your prescription medication.Medications can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one medication, including over-the-counter products and supplements.Plan ahead for refills as needed.
Meridia (sibutramine): market withdrawal due to risk of serious cardiovascular events. US Food & Drug Administration website. Available at:
Updated September 9, 2013. Accessed February 23, 2017.
Meridia (sibutramine hydrochloride): follow-up to an early communication about an ongoing safety review. US Food & Drug Administration website. Available at:
https://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm198221.htm. Updated September 9, 2013. Accessed February 23, 2017.
Obesity. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/nutritional-disorders/obesity-and-the-metabolic-syndrome/obesity. Update December 2016. Accessed February 23, 2017.
Orlistat (marketed as Alli and Xenical): labeling change. US Food & Drug Administration website. Available at:
https://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm213448.htm. Updated September 6, 2013. Accessed February 23, 2017.
Pai You Guo, marketed as dietary supplement—recall. US Food & Drug Administration website. Available at:
https://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm190531.htm. Updated August 29, 2013. Accessed February 23, 2017.
Prescription medications for the treatment of obesity. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available at:
https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/weight-control/prescription-medications-treat-overweight-obesity/pages/facts.aspx. Updated July 2016. Accessed August February 23, 2017.
Last reviewed February 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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