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Jul 28, 2016

Study Confirms the Benefits of FDA-Approved Weight Loss Pills

On average, weight loss pills helped overweight and obese participants lose 3–19 pounds more than those taking a placebo.

Weight loss pills are a valuable weapon in fighting obesity, based on recent findings that confirm the safety and efficacy of five weight loss drugs approved by the FDA.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this study analyzed data on five prescription weight loss medications to see which was safest and most effective. Medications included orlistat, lorcaserin, naltrexone-bupropion, phentermine-topiramate, and liraglutide, all of which are FDA-approved for the management of obesity.

The analysis included 28 clinical trials that compared any of the weight loss drugs to inactive placebo drugs in overweight or obese adults. Together, the analysis included more than 29,000 patients, all of which were followed for at least a year during the intervention.

The good news is that all five drugs were more effective than placebo in promoting weight loss after a year.  Only 23% of participants taking the placebo lost at least 5% of their body weight after a year, compared to 44–75% of adults taking weight loss drugs. On average, participants taking weight loss pills lost anywhere from 3–19 pounds more than those taking a placebo.

However, certain weight loss drugs were more effective than others. Overall, phentermine-topiramate and liraglutide were the most effective in helping patients lose 5% of their body weight. Patients taking phentermine-topiramate were 9 times more likely to lose 5% of their weight, and patients taking liraglutide were nearly 6 times more likely to achieve this goal compared to placebo.

However, authors also note that patients taking liraglutide and naltrexone-bupropion were the most likely to stop taking medication due to side effects or adverse events.

Still, findings confirm that prescription weight loss pills are both safe and effective for overweight and obese patients. Combined with lifestyle changes and behavioral interventions, medication may be a valuable treatment option for patients struggling with weight loss. And liraglutide and phentermine-topiramate may be the most effective option among all five FDA-approved pills.

However, authors note that more research is needed to assess the long-term impact of weight loss medication. Although the recent analysis was large with more than 29,000 patients, it only included results after one year. With more extensive research, experts hope to better understand the long-term safety and efficacy of medication for the management of obesity.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is a healthy weight for me?
  • A few important tools can be used to determine if an individual is underweight, normal weight or overweight. The easiest tool is a Body Mass Index, which is calculated using height and weight to estimate levels of body fat. However, Body Mass Index is not always accurate, particularly among individuals with extremely high or low amounts of muscle. In these cases, measuring waist circumference is helpful in assessing weight, as a waist circumference greater than 35 inches for a woman or 40 inches for a man is considered unhealthy.
  • What is the best way to lose weight?

  • Weight loss boils down to a simple formula: burn more energy each day than you take in from food. A deficit of 3500 calories will net one pound of fat loss. Therefore, if you cut down your food intake by just 100 calories a day, you can expect to lose 10 pounds by the end of the year.

    Although it’s tempting to look for a quick fix with a speedy weight loss scheme, many popular diets are unhealthy or produce only temporary results. You’ll have better luck with an eating plan that includes a variety of healthful foods and gives you enough calories and nutrients to meet your body’s needs. Taking it slow by making ongoing eating and exercise changes is the best way to reach and maintain your optimal weight.

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