person wearing sneakers rests their feet on blue wallAt Prisk Orthopaedics and Wellness, PC, we understand the challenges associated with weight loss. While maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise remains the foundation, sometimes additional support is needed. Prescription weight loss medications can be a valuable tool in your weight loss journey, but it's important to understand their pros and cons before making a decision.

Understanding How Weight Loss Medications Work:

Our bodies have a complex system that regulates appetite, blood sugar, and metabolism. Many weight loss medications target these systems to promote weight loss in different ways. Here's a breakdown of some common mechanisms:

  • Appetite Suppressants: These medications, like phentermine, work by affecting the central nervous system, increasing feelings of fullness and reducing hunger cues.
  • GLP-1 Receptor Agonists: Medications like liraglutide (Saxenda) and semaglutide (Ozempic) mimic a natural gut hormone called GLP-1. GLP-1 signals satiety (fullness) to the brain, leading to decreased food intake and increased calorie burning.
  • Lipase Inhibitors: Orlistat (Alli) works by blocking the enzyme lipase in the gut, preventing the absorption of some dietary fat.
  • Dual Action Drugs: Newer medications like tirzepatide (Mounjaro) combine mechanisms. They target both GLP-1 and GIP (another gut hormone) receptors, offering a potentially more potent approach to weight loss.

Considering Weight Loss Medications: The Pros and Cons

Appetite Suppressants:

  • Pros:

    • May lead to rapid weight loss in the short term.
    • Relatively inexpensive compared to other medications.
  • Cons:

    • Can cause side effects like anxiety, insomnia, and headaches
    • Not recommended for long-term use due to potential for addiction and dependence.
    • May not be effective for everyone.

GLP-1 Receptor Agonists:

  • Pros:

    • Proven to be effective for long-term weight loss and maintenance.
    • May improve blood sugar control in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
    • May also offer other health benefits like lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Cons:

    • Can be expensive, with high co-pays for some patients.
    • Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation, which may subside over time.
    • Injections required once a week.
    • Not recommended for people with certain medical conditions, such as pancreatitis or a history of medullary thyroid cancer.

Lipase Inhibitors:

  • Pros:

    • No reported effect on the central nervous system
    • May be helpful for people who struggle with high-fat diets.
  • Cons:

    • Can cause unpleasant side effects like oily stools, loose stools, and gas.
    • May interfere with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K).
    • Not as effective for weight loss as other medications.

Dual Action Drugs:

  • Pros:

    • Early research suggests potentially greater weight loss than GLP-1 receptor agonists alone.
    • May offer additional benefits like improved blood sugar control.
  • Cons:

    • Newer medication, long-term safety data still being collected.
    • Can be very expensive.
    • Potential for side effects like those seen with GLP-1 receptor agonists and pancreatitis.

Important Considerations Before Taking Weight Loss Medications:

  • Who is a candidate? Medications are most effective for people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, or those with a BMI of 27 or higher with a weight-related health condition (e.g., type 2 diabetes).
  • Safety first: Discuss your medical history with your doctor to determine if weight loss medications are safe, considering any existing conditions and medications you're already taking.
  • Lifestyle changes are key: Weight loss medications are not a magic bullet. They work best when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
  • Realistic expectations: Weight loss typically occurs gradually with medication. Aim for a healthy rate of 1-2 pounds per week.
  • Monitoring is crucial: Your doctor will monitor your weight, side effects, and overall health during treatment.

Beyond Medications: A Holistic Approach to Weight Loss

At Prisk Orthopaedics and Wellness, PC, we believe in a comprehensive approach to weight loss. Here are some additional resources we offer to support your weight loss journey:

  • Nutritional counseling: Our registered dietitians create personalized meal plans to ensure you're getting the right nutrients for your body and goals.
  • Exercise programs: Our physical therapists can develop safe and effective exercise routines, promoting weight loss and improving overall health.
  • Behavioral therapy: Addressing the emotional

Weight Loss Medication Comparison: Expected Weight Loss (Table) 

MedicationMechanism of ActionExpected Weight Loss (% of Body Weight)ProsCons
PhentermineAppetite Suppressant5-10%*Relatively inexpensive*May lead to rapid short-term weight loss*Potential for addiction and dependence* Not recommended for long-term use *Side effects like anxiety, insomnia, headaches
Wellbutrin (burpropion)Not fully understood, may affect appetite and dopamine levelsModest weight loss (3-7%) often used in combination with other medications*May help with smoking cessation* May improve mood*Not as effective for weightloss as other medications* Can cause side effects like dry mouth, insomnia and headaches
Contrave (bupropion nailtrexone)Combination of appetite suppression and opiod receptor antagonism5-8%*May help reduce craving for both food and alcoholMay improve mood
Topiramate (Qsymia- combined with phentermine)May affect appetite and increase feelings of fullness5-10% (used in combination with phentermine)May be helpful for people with migrainesNot as effective for weight loss alone
Wegovy (liraglutide)GLP-1 receptor agonist10-15%*Proven long-term effectiveness for weight loss *May improve blood sugar control*Expensive Required weekly injections * Side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation
Zepbound(tirzepatide)Dual action: GLP-1 and GIP receptor agonist15-20%*Potential most effective medication for weight loss on this list(early research)*New medication long-term safety data still being collected *Very expensive *Requires weekly injections *Potential for side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, pancreatits