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Weight Management: Exploring 8 FDA-Approved Medications

Weight Management: Exploring 8 FDA-Approved Medications

by Everly Allen 3 May 2024

Why is chronic weight management vital today? The prevalence of obesity has reached alarming levels, presenting a significant challenge to public health worldwide. Obesity is not merely a cosmetic issue. It is a complex chronic disease with far-reaching implications for physical and mental well-being. As the number of individuals affected by obesity continues to rise, so too does the urgency to address this pressing health concern. In this blog post, we will uncover the importance of obesity treatment and FDA-approved weight loss medications.

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FDA approved medications

Causes and Consequences of Obesity

Obesity is a complex, chronic health condition characterized by an excessive accumulation of body fat, which presents a risk to an individual’s overall health and well-being.

Causes of obesity:

  • unhealthy diet;
  • lack of physical activity;
  • genetics;
  • environmental factors;
  • mental health issues;
  • other risk factors.

Weight condition is typically defined by an individual’s body mass index (BMI). It is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.

The categories for BMI are:

  • underweight: BMI less than 18.5
  • normal weight: BMI between 18.5 and 24.9
  • overweight: BMI between 25 and 29.9
  • obesity: BMI of 30 or higher.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity rates have been steadily increasing. 43% of adults worldwide are classified as overweight and 16% are living with obesity. These alarming statistics underscore the urgent need for effective strategies to address this global epidemic.

Consequences of obesity:

  • increased risk of cardiovascular disease (stroke, heart disease) and major adverse cardiovascular events (high pressure, increased cholesterol, etc.);
  • diabetes type 2;
  • digestive and kidney diseases;
  • high blood pressure;
  • obstructive sleep (apnea);
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD);
  • other weight-related medical problems and chronic diseases.

Addressing the underlying causes of gained weight and mitigating obesity’s consequences require comprehensive strategies that encompass lifestyle modifications, weight-loss drugs, or interventions, and supportive care.

FDA-approved Weight Loss Medications Overview

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rigorously evaluates weight loss drugs to ensure their safety and effectiveness. These medications undergo extensive testing in clinical trials to assess their ability to promote weight loss, treat obesity, and manage weight-related health conditions.

Most weight loss medications are prescribed for adults who have obesity (with or without type 2 diabetes) and who have failed to achieve weight loss through diet and exercise alone. They are intended for individuals with a BMI of 30 and higher, or those with a BMI of 27 or more in the presence of at least one weight-related comorbid condition (high blood pressure, diabetes type 2, or dyslipidemia).

#1. Ozempic (semaglutide)

This weight loss drug is a GLP-1 receptor agonist commonly used to treat type 2 diabetes. Ozempic supports better blood sugar levels. Although not primarily intended for weight reduction, Ozempic may also facilitate modest weight loss, but it should be combined with a reduced-calorie diet and regular exercise for optimal results.

  • Mechanism of action: Ozempic mimics the action of the natural hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 in the body. GLP-1 regulates blood sugar levels by stimulating insulin release, slowing down the stomach’s rate of emptying after eating.
  • Intake method: subcutaneous injection once a week.
  • Main benefits: Ozempic helps to control appetite and promotes weight loss. At the same time, it reduces glucagon production (a hormone that raises blood sugar levels). This combined action helps to lower blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and stimulate the body to lose weight.

#2. Wegovy (semaglutide)

Wegovy is similar to Ozempic in its active ingredient and mechanism of action. Clinical trials have demonstrated that treatment with Wegovy can lead to an average weight loss of approximately 15% or more of the initial body weight.

  • Mechanism of action: It mimics the hormone GLP-1 action. Wegovy helps to reduce appetite and increase feeling of satiety by activating GLP-1 receptors in the brain.
  • Intake method: subcutaneous injection once a week.
  • Main benefits: Regular Wegovy intake leads to decreased food consumption and helps to maintain weight loss. In addition to weight loss, it may lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease or risk factors, including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and glycemic control.

#3. Zepbound (tirzepaptide)

It is a dual-acting agonist of both the glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) receptor and the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor. It is used for weight control and slimming down.

  • Mechanism of action: Zepbound enhances insulin secretion, decreases glucagon secretion, delays gastric emptying, and suppresses appetite.
  • Intake method: subcutaneous injection once a week.
  • Main benefits: significant weight loss. Clinical trials of treating obesity have shown that patients lost with Zepbound can lead to an average weight reduction of approximately 21% or more of initial body weight.

#4. Saxenda (liraglutide)

It is similar to Ozempic and Wegovy in its active ingredient and mechanism of action. Saxenda is prescribed for type 2 diabetes and to treat obesity.

  • Mechanism of action: These anti-obesity drugs imitate the hormone GLP-1 action, controlling insulin release and blood sugar levels. Additionally, Saxenda suppresses appetite, which leads to decreased food intake, enhanced satiety, and sustained weight loss.
  • Intake method: subcutaneous injection once daily.
  • Main benefits: Many patients experience a reduction of 5% or more of their initial body weight. This weight-loss drug is often associated with improvements in overall health and well-being. Saxenda has been shown in clinical trial to have favorable effects on cardiovascular risk aspects, including blood pressure, lipid levels, and markers of inflammation.

#5. Alli (orlistat)

This weight-loss medicine is prescribed for adults with a BMI of 25 or above who are overweight and are committed to a reduced-calorie, low-fat diet plan.

  • Mechanism of action: Alli inhibited the action of lipase enzymes in the intestines, which are responsible for breaking down dietary fat. Orlistat reduces the amount of fat absorbed and helps this way to lose weight.
  • Intake method: capsule taken with each meal that contains fat.
  • Main benefits: Alli can aid in achieving sustainable weight loss when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular physical activities.

#6. Xenical (orlistat)

This weight-loss drug is similar to Alli in its active ingredient and mechanism of action.

  • Mechanism of action: blocks fat absorption.
  • Intake method: capsule taken with each meal that contains fat.
  • Main benefits: facilitates weight loss by reducing the absorption of dietary fat.

#7. Contrave (bupropion-naltrexone)

This weight-loss treatment is a prescription medication that combines two ingredients: bupropion and naltrexone. It is used to treat overweight and reduce total body weight.

  • Mechanism of action:
    • bupropion is an antidepressant medication that works by affecting the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. It helps reduce appetite and cravings, making it easier for individuals to adhere to a low-calorie diet.
    • naltrexone is an opioid receptor antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids in the brain. It reduces food cravings and prevents overeating by blocking overeating by blocking the rewarding effects of food.
  • Intake method: one tablet orally once daily for the first week. The dosage gradually increased to a maintenance dose of two tablets twice daily.
  • Main benefits: It is designed to reduce gained weight when used as part of a comprehensive weight loss program with dietary changes and physical activities.

#8. Imcivree (setmelenotide)

These weight-loss drugs are used for weight management of obesity caused by specific genetic conditions such as pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) deficiency, protein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 1 (PCSK1) deficiency, or leptin receptor (LEPR) deficiency. These genetic conditions disrupt the body’s ability to regulate appetite and energy expenditure, leading to severe obesity from a young age.

  • Mechanism of action: mimics the effects of the hormone melanocortin, which regulates appetite and energy balance.
  • Intake method: subcutaneous injection once daily.
  • Main benefits: promotes weight loss in individuals with genetic obesity who have not responded to other weight loss treatments. Imcivree helps to achieve slimming down without bariatric surgery.

Common side effects of weight-loss drugs are nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. These symptoms may occur as the body adjusts to a new drug treatment and changes in digestion. Other potential side effects may include pancreatitis, kidney issues, hypoglycemia, gallbladder disease, allergic reactions, and thyroid disease. Some individuals may experience mood changes, increased heart rate, or blood pressure, insomnia or sleep disturbances, dizziness, and mild headaches.

Strategies for Chronic Weight Management: How to Lose Weight

Adopting a multifaceted approach is a crucial step in long-term weight management. It should combine dietary modifications, regular physical activities, and behavioral changes.

  • incorporating a balanced and nutritious diet rich in vitamins and minerals, including fat-soluble vitamins, can support overall health and weight on an optimal level.
  • setting realistic goals based on initial body mass index and baseline body weight can provide a framework for progress and success.
  • some individuals may benefit from medical interventions such as prescription medications like phentermine-topiramate.
  • ensuring access to healthcare services and insurance coverage for weight management interventions is essential for addressing the complex needs of patients struggling with excess weight.

The Future of Anti-Obesity Medications

As we look toward a weight-loss drug market, there’s a growing emphasis on innovation and research to address the evolving challenges in the field. The market is expected to see significant developments with the introduction of novel therapies to combat obesity and related conditions.

Focus on preventive strategies and early interventions is crucial, especially concerning pediatric patients, to mitigate the risk of weight gain and its associated health consequences.

With ongoing efforts from researchers, healthcare professionals, and organizations like the National Institute of Health, we can anticipate breakthroughs in weight-loss drugs that not only slim down but also effectively treat diabetes or other metabolic disorders.

Final Words

FDA-approved weight-loss drugs offer valuable options to lose weight during obesity treatment, although they come with potential side effects. Looking ahead, continued research and innovation in the medications and treatments hold promise for more effective interventions. However, comprehensive strategies like lifestyle modifications remain essential in weight management. Always consult with your healthcare provider to determine if these weight-loss drugs are the right treatment for your condition.

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