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FDA Approved Prescription Weight Loss Drugs

Updated on September 27, 2009

Please note that I am not a physician. The content of this hub is provided purely for informational purposes, and should not in any way be considered medical adivce. A desire to make changes to your diet or exercise habits or to take medication to aid in your weight loss efforts should be discussed with your physician prior to implementation.


An American Epidemic

Obesity in America is an reports that 127 million American's are overweight, with 60 million falling into the category of "obese" (those with a Body Mass Index, or BMI, greater than 30), and 9 million classified as "extemely obese" (having a BMI greater than 40). The site also reports that 62% of women and 67% of men are considered overweight.

by user PresidentJackFord,
by user PresidentJackFord,

No Easy Fix

If you're one of the millions of Americans who is overweight and has tried numerous fad diets, weight loss programs, or fitness regimes, you can probably attest to the fact that losing weight is no picnic. Even those who do find weight loss success frequently find that their succeses are short lived or that final goals are difficult to reach.

Sometimes it's not just as simple as putting down the Doritos. While the temptation of tasty, high-calorie, and high-fat convenience foods has certainly played a large part in the average American's "bottom line", other factors such as genetics must also be considered. True, too, is the fact that the average person is simply not as active as were our ancestors. We no longer need to walk or ride horses to get where we need to go - we have cars. Our means of supporting ourselves requires sitting down all day, more often than not, as opposed to the farming and smithing occupations that supported our predecessors.

One bright light is modern medicine. Thanks to advances in medicine, we live far longer than did our ancestors, even with our expanding waistlines. Even better is the fact that medicine has given us tools with which we can supplement our dieting efforts, helping us to lose more weight than we might otherwise be able to do on our own.

While there are many over the counter weight loss supplements, I do not recommend trying them without the go ahead of a physician. For the purpose of this hub, we'll be focusing on the weight loss medications that have received approval from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for prescription.

Two Types of Weight Loss Medication

There are two types of prescription weight loss drugs:

  1. Appetite Suppressants work on the brain, increasing levels of the chemicals that control appetite and mood, serotonin and catecholamine. This sends the body the signal that it is not hungry.
  2. Fat Absorption Inhibitors work by preventing the body from digesting and absorbing fat that has been eaten. The fat is then eliminated from the body through bowel movements.


FDA Approved Prescription Appetite Suppressants

  • Phentermine is sold under the brand name of Adipex® (Gate Pharmaceuticals) as well as others.
  • Sibutramine is sold under the brand name Meridia® (Abbott Laboratories) and is one of the more well-known prescription appetite suppressants. In a 12-month clinical study of patients using Meridia® , those patients taking 10 mg per day averaged a weight loss of 10 pounds and patients taking 15 mg per day averaged weight loss of 14 pounds. Patients participating in the study using diet alone lost an average of only 3 ½ pounds.

Both Adipex® and Meridia® are generally prescribed along with physician recommendations for a reduced-calorie diet and a regular, moderate-intensity exercise program for those patients who are well enough to exercise.

FDA Approved Fat Absorption Inhibitors

Orlistat is sold by prescription only under the brand name of Xenical® (Roche Laboratories). Xenical® is recommended for use with a reduced-calorie diet with no more than 30% of calories coming from fat. Xenical® blocks absorption of up to 1/3 of the fat eaten. In clinical trials, those who were treated with Xenical® plus diet lost a significant amount more weight than those who were treated with diet alone.

Orlistat is also sold as Alli®, the only FDA-approved, over-the-counter weight loss drug available.


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    • drkathleenfuller profile image

      drkathleenfuller 6 years ago from 322 SW Ocean Blvd, Stuart, Florida 34994

      Does a person take these meds. for life to maintain their weight loss? I wonder about the long term effects of relying on drugs to lose weight. What % of people using these drugs decide on a life style change? If you do a life style change how long do they maintain the healthy change? Thanks for the thought provoking hub.

    • coolbreeze profile image

      Rik Rodriguez 7 years ago from Hawaii

      hope I never have to take any FDA approved drugs. Scary!!!!

      If you up your nutritional content and not your calories you will naturally loose weight. You will feel better and start to move around more also. Great hub!

    • Em Writes profile image

      Em Writes 9 years ago from Upstate NY

      Thanks for reading, NYLady. I hope to write individual hubs on each product to go into indications, contraindications, side effects, etc.

      Good for you for getting into shape! I've got some extra poundage that I'd like to shed but, fortunately, not enough to be a candidate for any of these products. A close friend of mine, though, has used some of these meds with decent results.

    • NYLady profile image

      NYLady 9 years ago from White Plains, NY

      EM: Interesting hub! I've been interested in Alli, but thought it was just another lose-weight-in-two-minutes product. On the other hand, I've lost almost 10 pounds in the past seven weeks just by returning to my gym and working out four times a week. It was initially embarassing to see my old pals there, with an extra 10-15 pounds on me, but they all missed me! And now my hard work is beginning to show. Great reading your stuff.