diet pills and supplements

All weight loss drugs available in the market today fall into one of two broad groups. They can either be a prescription or non-prescription weight loss drug.

Drugs that have been approved by the FDA are called prescription drugs. Buying prescription drugs (also called ethical drugs) is only possible through the written approval of a certified physician. They are for promoting healthy weight loss in certain groups of people.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is an important government agency. The FDA has the task of protecting the general public from unsafe drugs.

So, drugs that need a prescription status must produce research results. These results must confirm that they are safe and effective. This is only when the FDA can give approval for their sale to the public.

To use a prescription weight loss medication, the intending user must see a physician. This is compulsory for at least the first prescription of the medication.

The physician will have to test the patient to find out certain things. He/she has to confirm that using the drug in question will not pose any health risk to the patient. Like, will it interact with other medications the patient might currently be taking?

Qualifications for Prescription Weight Loss Drug Approval

You should know a few things before thinking of using a prescription weight loss drug.

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Intending users must meet some specified weight related conditions to get approval.

Prescription weight loss drugs, unlike their “supplements” counterparts, go through a certification process. These medications are to treat people with chronic and unhealthy body fat.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) associates being overweight with:

  • Risk of coronary heart disease
  • Respiratory illnesses
  • Stroke
  • Hypertension
  • Type II diabetes

An increased risk for these overweight-related conditions is obesity.

The NHLBI has regulatory guidelines for physicians with regards to prescription drugs. These are to help physicians classify, measure, and treat overweight and obesity conditions.

Physicians need to carry out certain regulatory observations on their patients. These will determine if a patient qualifies to use a prescription based weight loss drug or not. The procedures include:

Determination of BMI

The patient must meet one of two categorizations. First, the individual should be overweight – with a BMI of 27 or above. There must also be evidence of having an obesity-related condition. Second, the individual should be obese with a BMI of 30 or above. There should also be evidence of having an obesity-related condition.

Some of the obesity-related conditions include:

  • High blood cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart diseases

Waistline Measurement

There must be a measurement of the waistline. This is important because of the health risk implications of the waistline size.

Several researchers have associated fat around the waist to higher increases in mortality. This when compared to fat stored in other parts of the body including the thighs and buttocks.

Presence of other risk factors posed by excess weight

These are conditions mostly related to the patient’s family history amongst other. These conditions might include high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol levels.

The NHLBI requires that physicians check all three measures before making final recommendations.

However, these conditions look high for a lot of individuals. For example, people who want to lose weight and think they would be safer using such weight loss products.

Types of Prescription Weight Loss Drugs

There are three main types of prescription weight loss drugs. This is based on how they aid weight loss.

Appetite Suppressants

This category accounts for well over 90% of all prescription weight loss drugs so far approved by the FDA. Appetite suppressants aid weight loss by influencing the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the appetite center of the brain.

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However, most of the FDA approved appetite suppressants use the same major active ingredient. Phenethylamines are the active ingredients and they are similar to amphetamines.

Amphetamines generally have a stimulant effect on the central nervous system. They speed up mental and physical functions.

When ingested, these appetite suppressants affect some neurotransmitter systems in the brain. These include some catecholamines and serotonin. This effect causes an increase in their total levels.

At certain levels, the brain signals the body that it has ingested enough food. The body receives signal to stop eating.

Therefore, appetite suppressants make you eat less. They also reduce your cravings for snacks in-between meals. This helps to reduce your total calorie intake.

Some of the FDA approved appetite suppressants include:

  • Diethylpropion (Tenuate, and Tenuate dospan)
  • Phendimetrazine (Bontril, Plegine, Prelu-2, X-Trozine, and Adipost)
  • Phentermine (Adipex-P, Fastin, Ionamin, Oby-trim, Pro-Fast, and Zantryl)
  • Sibutramine (Meridia)

Lipase Inhibitors

In 1999, the FDA approved a new class of weight loss drug called lipase inhibitors. They function differently from the other appetite suppressants.

Orlistat was the first of this new class of anti-obesity drugs. It is for use in long term weight loss management.

Lipase inhibitors aid weight loss by inhibiting the pancreatic enzyme lipase. This enzyme helps the body break down dietary fat. This reduces the body’s ability to absorb ingested fat by as much as 30%.

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Lipase inhibitors help you lose weight by inhibiting the absorption of dietary fat. This was, the body does not absorb most of the dietary fat that passes through it. Thereby, it aids in reducing your total calorie intake.

However, lipase inhibitors do have some undesirable side effects. The only FDA approved drug in this category is Orlistat. Its marketing brand name is Xenical.

Off-label Drugs

Off-label drugs are drugs that have uses other than their official usage. The FDA may not need to have approved these uses. The drug labels may also not list these uses officially.

It is thus legal for physicians to use their discretion in an ethical manner. So they can prescribe certain drugs for usages other than what is on the drug’s label.

For instance, physicians sometimes prescribe antidepressants to treat overweight and obese people. These antidepressants include fluoxetine (Prozac), bupropion (Wellbutrin XL), and sertraline (Zoloft). Physicians have reported increased weight loss by as much as 10% in some cases.

Another example is Adderall, a drug for treating patients with ADHD. It has a side effect of suppressing appetite and which results in weight loss.

Benefits of Prescription Weight Loss Drugs

Most of the results of prescription weight loss drugs have been from the short term effects of the drugs.

As a general rule, their prescription is for short term use of about a few weeks. In spite of this, physicians still prescribe these drugs for longer periods of time.

However, two of the available prescription weight loss drugs are for long term use. They are Orlistat (Xenical) and Sibutramine (Meridia). They are for long-term use in patients who are significantly overweight.

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Yet, the safety and effectiveness of these drugs for use of more than two years is not guaranteed.

Several studies show that prescription weight loss drugs have significant weight loss effects. Some patients have experienced weight loss of about 5 to 12 pounds over a six-month period.

The sixth month of using these drugs is when users experience the average maximum weight loss.

Physicians generally prescribe these weight loss drugs as add-ons to a healthy diet and regular exercise. Users can expect to lose about 10% or more of their body weight than they otherwise would.

Side Effects of Prescription Weight Loss Drugs

Prescription weight loss drugs can make users become addicted to them. Apart from that, the body also adapts to their effects.

Prescription weight loss drugs have other side effects. Amongst others, some of these side effects include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Nervousness
  • Sweating

Advantages of Prescription Weight Loss Drugs

Prescription weight loss drugs have certain advantages over their non-prescription alternatives.

First is the fact that the FDA has approved them for use by the public. Then there is the continuous monitoring of their safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing processes. Also, there is monitoring of the prescription process.

Nonetheless, this does not imply that non-prescription weight loss drugs are not monitored by the FDA. The only thing is that they don’t go through the rigorous approval processes of the FDA.

If there are reports of serious side effects, the FDA might withdraw such drugs from the market. This was the case with ephedra and its derivatives.

However, it is very important to emphasize one point. Prescription weight loss drugs have no real advantage over their supplement alternatives. They are not necessarily more effective because a physician prescribed them.

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Also, the same rules apply to prescription weight loss drugs like their supplement alternatives. Therefore, it’s best to combine them with a healthy diet and regular physical exercise. This will optimize their effectiveness in helping you achieve your weight loss goals.

It is great that prescription weight loss drugs have strict rules and regulations. But then again, fact is that they still have their associated side effects. All things being equal, their use should be a last resort.

For the generality of people, it is best to use a proven and effective natural weight loss supplement. There are very good ones in the market. A lot of the goods ones have no serious side effects and they can help you achieve your healthy weight loss goals.