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Obesity - Medications

Most weight-loss medicines for obesity work by making you feel less hungry or making you feel full sooner. They are used together with healthy eating habits and exercise.

Medicine is generally used only for those who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. But they sometimes are used for those with a BMI of 27 or higher who are at risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, and sleep apnea.1

Medicine choices

  • Orlistat (Xenical) is a prescription medicine that prevents some of the fat calories you eat from being absorbed in your intestines. Prescription orlistat is the only weight-loss medicine that is approved for children. It is meant to be used only in children over the age of 12.
  • Orlistat (Alli) is also available over the counter. Alli contains half of the medicine that is in Xenical. Over-the-counter orlistat is not meant for use by anyone under the age of 18.
  • Appetite suppressants like phentermine suppress your appetite. They are approved only for short-term use. Phentermine is no longer sold in Europe because of a possible link with heart and lung problems.
  • Lorcaserin (Belviq) is a prescription medicine that you take twice a day. It can help you eat less and feel satisfied with eating smaller amounts of food.
  • Phentermine/topiramate (Qsymia) is a prescription medicine that combines the drugs phentermine and topiramate. Taking it once a day can help you eat less.

What to think about

Medicine doesn't work for everyone. And medicine alone is not as effective as when it is combined with healthy eating habits or activity.

Nonprescription weight-loss products aren't recommended. Some have dangerous side effects, and others have no proven benefit.

Obesity: Should I Take Weight-Loss Medicine?

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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