Weight Loss Pills, Past and Present: How They Work, Safety and More

Our preoccupation with weight loss may have overtaken our interest in eating. One of the most common goals people have for the new year is to lose weight.

Some individuals today will go to any length to achieve their weight loss goals. There is a lot of skepticism and debate around items that claim to help you lose weight quickly or drastically.

Weight-loss supplements that the FDA doesn't control aren't the same as FDA-approved weight-loss drugs. With a doctor's supervision, these drugs that have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could help specific individuals, especially those who maintain a healthy lifestyle with frequent physical activity. Here's the lowdown on these diet supplements.

Using Diet Pills to Lose Weight: yes, or no?

Most doctors and dietitians think the best way to shed extra pounds is via an active lifestyle and a diet emphasizing balanced, moderate quantities of nutritious foods. It's also important to recognize your mindset's role in your weight gain or reduction and work to alter it.

A balanced diet, increased activity, and behavioural counselling are recommended to assist patients in losing 5 to 10% of their excess weight in the first six months of treatment.

On the other hand, this may not be satisfactory to everybody. Diet pills are prescription prescriptions for weight reduction; your doctor can tell you whether you'd benefit from them. If you match the criteria outlined in the rules, you should consider applying for membership.

The BMI calculator from the Centers for Disease Control is user-friendly. The index calculates your body mass index based on your weight and height. A precise reflection of your weight may not be possible if you have a lot of muscle. Get the finest method of determining your health state by seeing your doctor. Pregnant women, minors, or those trying to lose weight shouldn't use diet tablets.

Previous Attempts at Medicating Obesity and Its Difficult Past

Obese individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher or adults with a BMI of 27 or higher who have at least one weight-related health condition, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol, are the specific target populations for weight reduction drugs now available.

Yet only a tiny percentage of individuals who satisfy those criteria use weight-loss medications. More than 2.2 million persons in the United States who were potentially suitable candidates for treatment with weight reduction medicines between 2009 and 2015 were included in one research published in 2019 in Obesity. Just 1.3% of those who were prescribed medication took it.

Much of the issue concerns safety considerations since many of the first weight reduction medications used in the 1970s and 1980s had severe adverse effects. A few of those therapies were deemed too risky and subsequently taken off the market. They included the potentially addictive amphetamines, the heart-valve-damaging fenfluramine, and the cancer-increasing lorcaserin.

There is a lengthy history of unproven and perhaps harmful diet medications. Appetite-suppressing "rainbow pill" mixtures were advertised aggressively to American women as early as the 1940s. Amphetamines, diuretics, laxatives, and thyroid hormones were often included inside the vividly coloured pills. In most cases, they were used with other medications.

For the treatment of obesity, none of these drugs has undergone long-term testing. As a result, there is a greater possibility that they may have adverse effects that would be missed with shorter courses of treatment.

Another unproven weight-loss supplement, "fen-phen," gained popularity in the 1990s. This concoction included the appetite suppressant phentermine and the psychiatric medication fenfluramine, which increases serotonin levels in the brain and causes feelings of fullness. When it was discovered that fenfluramine and its successor dexfenfluramine, sold under the brand names Pondimin and Redux, respectively, might induce heart valve abnormalities, the drugs were recalled in 1997.

After being on the market for almost a decade, the appetite suppressant sibutramine (Meridia) was recalled in 2010 due to an elevated risk of cardiovascular events, including strokes. Second, in 2020, after being on the market for nearly a decade, the prescription weight reduction medicine lorcaserin (Belviq) was withdrawn due to cancer concerns.

New, More Stringent Tests

In the late 1990s, the FDA suggested that new pharmaceuticals treat obesity undergo year-long clinical studies before approval in light of the widespread recall of weight reduction therapies due to serious side effects. Redux and Meridia were exempt from this directive since their respective testing phases were already underway. Yet, it did improve testing for subsequent medications like Belviq.

Most anti-obesity drug withdrawals occurred in treatments not subjected to rigorous one-year studies.

The safety records of all drugs licensed in the recent decade are excellent. These newer medications have either long been used to treat type 2 diabetes. They are now being studied for their potential to treat obesity, or they combine medicines with solid safety records when taken independently.

Newer Medications Have Varying Effects on Weight Loss

Physicians agree that the newer weight loss treatments don't seem to have the same safety risks as rainbow pills or fen-phen; they also note that their efficacy isn't generally as striking.

Current Obesity Reports released a study of anti-obesity medicines in 2021. Experts compared the efficacy of numerous current weight reduction drugs by analyzing their clinical trial outcomes using a methodology developed to facilitate direct comparisons. Researchers analyzed randomized controlled trials in which all subjects participated in lifestyle treatments (such as food and exercise) for weight reduction. At the same time, half were given a placebo, and the other half were given a weight loss prescription.


Be wary of supplements that guarantee rapid results without any effort on your part. The Food and Drug Administration doesn't oversee accessories sold in stores. The Food and Drug Administration has said many of these items are ineffective and harmful. Products sold as dietary supplements have been discovered to include medications not approved by federal authorities.

Weight reduction drugs authorized by the FDA are not a silver bullet. None of them has drawbacks, and some people may not even respond. The dangers may be worth taking if your health risks from being overweight are high, but the advantages are minor. Discuss the possibility of using weight-loss prescription drugs with your doctor.

Updated on: 03-Apr-2023


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