Appropriate Treatment Goals for Using Prescription Weight-Loss Medications

If you and your doctor believe that the use of weight-loss medications may help you, discussing the goals of treatment is important. Improving your health and reducing your risk for disease should be the primary goals. For most severely obese people, achieving an "ideal body weight" is both unrealistic and unnecessary to improve their health and reduce their risk for disease. Most patients should not expect to reach an ideal body weight using the currently available medications. Even a modest weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of your starting body weight can improve your health and reduce your risk factors for disease. Use of weight-loss medications for cosmetic purposes is not appropriate.

Weight-loss medications should be used with a program of behavioral treatment and nutritional counseling designed to help you make long-term changes in your diet and physical activity. You should see your physician regularly so that he or she can monitor how you are responding to the medication, not only in terms of weight loss, but how it affects your overall health. Again, if you experience any serious symptoms, such as chest pains or shortness of breath, contact your doctor immediately.

Long-term use of prescription weight-loss medications may be helpful for carefully selected individuals, but little information is available on the safety and effectiveness of these medications when used for more than 2 years. By evaluating your risk of experiencing obesity-related health problems, you and your physician can make an informed choice as to whether medication can be a useful part of your weight-management program.

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