Weight loss medications such as phentermine and others have been in common use since the late 1950s. Unfortunately back in the ’50s, it was believed that overweight and obesity were due to a lack of discipline and if someone were able to lose weight, they would easily be able to keep it off. Unfortunately, this is just not true. In order to successfully lose and keep off your weight you have to change a number of factors in your life including your diet, exercise and stress on your body (primarily the quantity of sleep that we get). Thus when these medicines were first studied, they were only studied over 12 weeks with the false belief that if you were able to lose the weight, it would stay off with no further effort.
Current philosophy regarding overweight and obesity is to treat it as a disease. Practically, this means that weight loss drugs originally studied only for 12 weeks can be used longer than that. For example, if your doctor put you on a blood pressure drug and when rechecked your blood pressure was normal, after several weeks your physician doesn’t ask you to now discontinue the drug. No. He or she says “Great” and keeps you on the drug. Using this scenario, if a weight loss drug helps you to keep your weight off then you may continue using it even as your weight normalizes as long as you qualified to take it in the first place.
There are a several guidelines used when using weight controlling medications. Your bariatrician (weight loss doctor) has been specially trained to know which drugs to use, how to use them and more importantly, when to use them. Most of the guidelines start with your initial BMI and body fat percent along with your medical history and other medicines that you may already be taking.
Some of the medicines in the bariatrician’s medicine cabinet include phentermine (Adipex), diethylproprion (Tenuate), topiramate (Topamax), phendimetrazine (Bontril), buproprion (WellButrin), sibutramine (Meridia) and orlistat (Xenical or Alli). Weight loss drugs make it easier to stick to a lower calorie diet. Discuss the use of a weight loss drug with your bariatrician to see if there is one that is right for you.