Medications That Promote Weight Loss

Most available weight-loss medications are "appetite-suppressant" medications. Appetite-suppressant medications promote weight loss by decreasing appetite or increasing the feeling of being full. These medications decrease appetite by increasing serotonin or catecholamine--two brain chemicals that affect mood and appetite.

In 1999, the drug orlistat was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an obesity treatment. Orlistat works by reducing the body's ability to absorb dietary fat by about one third.

Most currently available weight-loss medications are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for short-term use, meaning a few weeks or months. Sibutramine and orlistat are the only weight-loss medications approved for longer-term use in significantly obese patients, although the safety and effectiveness have not been established for use beyond 1 year. (See table 1 for the generic and trade names of prescription weight-loss medications.) While the FDA regulates how a medication can be advertised or promoted by the manufacturer, these regulations do not restrict a doctor's ability to prescribe the medication for different conditions, in different doses, or for different lengths of time. The practice of prescribing medication for periods of time or for conditions not approved is known as "off-label" use. While such use often occurs in the treatment of many conditions, you should feel comfortable about asking your doctor if he or she is using a medication or combination of medications in a manner that is not approved by the FDA. The use of more than one weight-loss medication at a time (combined drug treatment) is an example of an off-label use. Using weight-loss medications other than sibutramine or orlistat for more than a short period of time (i.e., more than "a few weeks") is also considered off-label use.

Prescription Weight-Loss Medications

Generic Name

Trade Name(s)

Dexfenfluramine

Redux (withdrawn)

Diethylpropion

Tenuate, Tenuate dospan

Fenfluramine

Pondimin (withdrawn)

Mazindol

Sanorex, Mazanor

Orlistat

Xenical

Phendimetrazine

Bontril, Plegine, Prelu-2, X-Trozine

Phentermine

Adipex-P, Fastin, Ionamin, Oby-trim

Sibutramine

Meridia


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Popular prescription weight loss drugs, suppressants - The Fact Files

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