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Doctors Prescribe Patients Medications for Their Weight Loss Side Effects

People are now looking behind the pharmacy counter for help losing weight. A recent article published in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) discussed doctors prescribing medications that are not typically used for weight loss and not currently FDA approved for it. Let’s take a look at some of the controversial weight loss prescriptions and how effective, and dangerous, they can really be.

Medications for Diabetes: Byetta and Metformin

Most diabetes medications cause weight loss because blood sugar levels are more properly managed. Byetta works by slowing the rate at which food empties from the stomach. Many of my diabetic patients tell me they feel more full and do not eat as frequently when on the medication. The biggest side effect with Byetta is nausea which is why the dose starts lower and increases from once to twice daily. This is a self administered injection into the fat of the abdomen, upper arm or thigh. If you are willing to give yourself a possibly painful injection to lose weight, you probably could stick to a healthy and natural nutrition and exercise plan just as easily.

Metformin is the go to drug for type 2 diabetics. It’s great because it helps increase the body’s sensitivity to the insulin it’s already producing. The biggest perk is that it doesn’t do what most other diabetes medication do, which is cause low blood sugar. There are certainly some drawbacks, such as the diarrhea, which will usually go away once your body gets used to the medication. If the doctor decides to increase your dosage the diarrhea may come back.

Stimulants: Adderall, Ritalin

Adderall is considered a possible prescription weight loss option in conjunction with diet and exercise. Without lifestyle modification, the weight will come right back on upon discontinuation of the stimulant. This further solidifies the fact that a healthy diet and exercise are essential in weight loss and maintenance. The results tend to begin strong and taper down as the medication is continuously used. Short term therapy of about 3 to 6 weeks is what has currently been studied. Side effects like insomnia and feeling agitated are fairly common with stimulants.

Antidepresants: Zyban, Wellbutrin

Wellbutrin and Zyban actually contain the same active ingredient which is bupropion. Wellbutrin is marketed as an antidepressant and Zyban as an aid to quit smoking. Bupropion can go either way with regard to weight. Most studies have shown that weight loss is more predominate than weight gain. The other risks with bupropion include risk of seizures, insomnia, dizziness and drowsiness.

Dr. Robert Skversky, a bariatric physician from California frequently prescribes off-label medications and tells his patient that they will be on them for life. He believes keeping patients on these medications will help calm cravings and prevent the weight from coming back. Knowing that diet and exercise is proven effective in weight loss I have to wonder if taking these prescription medications are really worth the risk. This is a decision that should warrant much thought and discussion with a doctor.

October 11th, 2011

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