What has the
FDA Approved
for Weight loss

People shed extra pounds for various reasons. Some want to lose weight for appearance, a few do it for sports competitions, while others want to maintain an appropriate weight for overall health. Whatever the reason, shedding those extra pounds can be an arduous journey.

Lifestyle changes and diet can help with obesity, but most doctors will also prescribe weight loss medications for the best results. In this article, we’ll discuss the weight loss medications that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved to help manage weight.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is a medical problem associated with excessive weight caused by too much body fat. This condition increases the risk of health complications such as Type 2 diabetes, stroke, and high blood pressure. You can measure obesity using body mass index (BMI). A person’s BMI is determined by measuring their height compared to their weight. Ideally, 18.5 to 24.9 is the normal BMI range for healthy weight, while 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. If your BMI is 30 and above, you’re supposed to be obese, and those with a BMI above 40 are described as severely obese.

After getting your BMI score, your doctor will assess your risk and susceptibility to health complications brought about by weight and prescribe means to manage obesity.

What is Obesity

Medications Approved by FDA for Weight Loss

The FDA is responsible for ensuring that the medicines consumers buy or get prescriptions for are safe for use. Here are some medications the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has permitted for weight management:

CONTRAVE (Bupropion-Naltrexone)

This medication, which is available as tablets, combines the antidepressant bupropion with the opioid antagonist naltrexone. These two active ingredients assist you in losing weight when combined with regular exercise and a low-calorie diet.

Contrave works by diminishing hunger and handling cravings. It has also been shown to help lower hemoglobin A1C in people with type 2 diabetes. This medication should not be taken with high-fat meals as they reduce its efficacy.

People who should not use the drug include those who have:
  • Seizure disorder
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Recently abruptly withdrawn from drugs or alcohol
  • A dependence on opioid pain medications

Drug Effectiveness

In a series of four clinical trials, Contrave was administered to overweight people and those with obesity for up to 56 weeks. On average, those who took Contrave dropped 11 to 22 pounds more than those who took a placebo.

Another study showed that 40% of the total individuals who took Contrave experienced a body weight loss of at least 5%, while 20% of the total participants lost not less than 10% of their body weight.

Side Effects

Contrave is known to have the following side effects;

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Liver damage
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate

QSYMIA (Phentermine-Topiramate)

Qsymia is also another weight loss drug that combines two medications, Phentermine, which reduces your appetite, and Topiramate which treats migraines and seizures. This loss medication works by acting on certain parts of your brain to reduce appetite. Qsymia also increases the energy used by the body processes hence increasing metabolism.

The drug is taken once a day, in the morning because Qsymia can bring about insomnia. Your healthcare provider can guide you in determining the suitability of Qsymia to children aged 12 years and older, whose BMI is at or beyond the 95th percentile.

Drug Effectiveness

The amount of weight lost in clinical studies involving Qsymia was found to be relative to the dose administered. In initial studies, using maximum doses, close to 50% of participants lost 10% of their weight while 70% taking the drug lost not less than 5% of their body weight a year.

This drug is not for everyone. You should avoid taking Qsymia if:

  • You have glaucoma
  • Are pregnant or intending to be
  • You have hyperthyroidism.
  • Are breastfeeding
You should also inform your healthcare professional if you have kidney disease, mood problems, heart attack or stroke, or abnormal heart rhythm

Side Effects

  • Insomnia
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in taste, especially with carbonated drinks
  • Hands and feet tingling

ALLI (Orlistat)

Alli is available in 60 milligrams capsule form and can be obtained by buying it over the counter. It contains the active ingredient Orlistat, just like Xenical. Due to this similarity, Alli uses the same mechanism as Xenical to manage weight. It works in your gut by reducing the quantity of fat your body absorbs from your food intake. To avoid drug interactions, do not take this drug with cyclosporine.

Drug Effectiveness

Most people who took the 60 mg capsule in clinical studies lost 5 to 10 pounds in six months. The 60 mg capsule has demonstrated that it possesses 85% of the effectiveness of the 120 mg dose.

Side Effects

Alli has almost similar side effects to Xenical, but thanks to its lower dosage, it is more tolerated. Some of these side effects are:
  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Leaking of oily stool
  • Severe liver injuries have been reported in rare cases

Xenical (Orlistat)

This medication is a member of the class of drugs called lipase inhibitors, with the active ingredient Orlistat, similar to what Alli, mentioned before, has. Xenical works by reducing the amount of fat absorbed in the gut after meals, ensuring that only about 30% of your calories are obtained from fat. This makes it an ideal weight-loss medication for people who like consuming fatty foods.

Xenical comes in a 120 mg capsule that is typically taken three times a day, either with food or one hour after a meal. Since Xenical medication inhibits the absorption of fats and other fat-soluble vitamins, you’re strongly encouraged to take a daily multivitamin to make up for the vitamins your body fails to absorb from the food you consume.

Drug Effectiveness

If Xenical works in your favor, you should expect to lose a minimum of about 5% of your body weight. For people with obesity, clinical trials have indicated that the Xenical offers significant weight loss.

Xenical also interacts with other drugs, including Cyclosporine, Amiodarone, and Anticoagulants, such as Jantoven (warfarin), among other drugs. Inform your doctor of any medications that you might be using before taking Xenical.

Xenical should not be taken by people who:

  • Have hypersensitivity to Orlistat
  • Experience malabsorption syndrome
  • Are expectant
  • Have cholestasis

Side Effects

  • More frequent stools that are also quite difficult to control
  • Fatty stools
You can reduce frequent defecation by taking food high in fiber or supplements that contain fiber.

Saxenda (Liraglutide)

Saxenda regulates appetite similarly to the glucagon-like peptide-1 hormone, which imitates the brain’s GLP-1 receptor. This hormone targets the parts of the brain that control hunger and food intake. This medication is available as a 3mg injectable drug with an initial dose of 0.6mg and is prescribed to overweight adults or those with obesity. It can also be administered to children of 12-17 years weighing more than 132 pounds. Saxenda works best alongside regular exercise and a meal plan low on calories.

Drug Effectiveness

A large trial lasting 56 weeks, was set up to evaluate Liraglutide’s effect on people who had a BMI between 27 and 30 or those above 30 (obese). The results showed that about 63% of the individuals who took Saxenda lost a minimum of 5% of their body weight, while 33% lost not less than 10 % of their entire body weight.

Side Effects of Saxenda

  • Low blood sugar
  • Difficulty digesting food
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Diarrhea or Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Saxenda is not safe for:

  • People with an allergy and/or sensitivity to the inactive ingredients in Saxenda
  • Expectant mother
  • People with a history of multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome type 2

Imcivree (Setmelanotide)

Imcivree is approved for chronic weight management and it belongs to a class of drugs known as melanocortin receptor agonists. The drug works by increasing resting metabolism which ensures the body burns more calories while at rest. In addition, Imcivree activates parts of the brain that control fullness and appetite.

The drug is available in 10mg/mL (1-mL multidose vial) injectable solution. The starting dose for obese adults is 2 mg once daily for 2 weeks, while children under 12 to 6 years start at 1 mg (0.1 mL) per day for 2 weeks.

Drug Effectiveness

A study conducted to evaluate the efficacy of Imcivree on people with obesity due to gene deficiencies of LEPR, POMC, OR PCSK1 revealed that up to 80 percent of participants with POMC or PCSK1 were able to lose 10% of their weight over a one-year time period, while 40% with LEPR lost 10% of their body weight during the same period.

Still, it is very important to note that even though the drug does help you lose weight, it does not eliminate the underlying genetic shortcomings.

Side Effects

  • Headache
  • Depression.
  • Vomiting Skin color changes.
  • Nausea.
  • Skin reactions on the injection sites.

There are real risks of depression and suicidal thinking associated with the use of Imcivree. It is very important to contact your healthcare provider the moment you notice that you are experiencing such symptoms as suicidal ideation.The drug should not be used by infants or newborns as it can be life-threatening to them.

Wegovy (Semaglutide)

Wegovy makes you feel full for long. It does this effectively by stimulating the GLP-1 receptor in the brain. This medication can be administered with or without meals.

Wegovy for weight loss comes as a 2.4 mg injection given subcutaneously, with a starting dose of 0.25 mg administered once per week for 4 weeks. Depending on your needs, the doctor can increase your dosage after every 4 weeks until you reach the full dose of 2.4 mg.

Drug Effectiveness

According to research, using 2.4 milligrams of Semaglutide once on a weekly basis alongside lifestyle changes led to a median weight loss of 15%. Further studies have indicated quite concretely that 86% of the participants who took Semaglutide lost a minimum of 5% of their body weight relative to the 13% who were on placebo.

Semaglutide has also been shown to be more effective compared to other weight loss drugs. For instance, relative to Liraglutide, Semaglutide had more people losing over 5% or 10% of their body weight.

Side Effects

  • Headache
  • Stomach pain
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Constipation or Diarrhea

Wegovy is not right for people:

  • Who are pregnant
  • With an allergy /sensitivity to any of the inactive ingredients in Wegovy

Beware of any suicidal ideas emanating from this specific drug use. If you notice such ideations, contact your healthcare professional immediately.


The Drug and Food Administration has given its approval to all of the aforementioned medications. However, you need to visit your doctor to get a prescription before purchasing these drugs. Your doctor will evaluate your condition and advice on the best weight loss medication choices to choose from.

It is crucial to take into account several things like its side effects, sensitivity, and cost when choosing the medication that suits your specific requirements.

Remember a healthy diet and suitable exercises are a good complement to many of these medications. So talk to your nutritionist to create the perfect meal plan and exercise based on your medication.

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