Weight loss drugs have become a popular diet aid in the past 50 years, as more and more women, and even men, try to do something about being overweight. Over six out of ten Americans is now overweight, and statistics suggest that that figure is actually increasing, not decreasing, despite all of the diet programs and options available today.
Many people desperate to lose weight will in some cases decide to resort to the drastic bariatric surgery, commonly referred to as stomach stapling. Still others will resort to the less invasive gastric band surgery, which tightens a firm band around the upper part of the stomach to give the sensation of being full faster.
Those not interested in surgery, with all its potential risks, may decide that weight loss drugs are a safer option. However, just like all surgeries, all prescription weight loss drugs carry a risk of serious side effects, as do over the counter weight loss drugs, or even herbal weight loss drugs.
Prescription diet drugs have not received easy approval from the FDA due concerns over the way they work, and the side effects, which have to be balanced against any benefit to a person's health in terms of lost weight.
Therefore, only two prescription diet drugs so far have been approved by the FDA for the long-term treatment of obesity: sibutramine (Meridia) and orlistat (Xenical).
Meridia works by boosting levels of certain chemical messengers in the nervous system, including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which help you feel full and happy.
Side effects of Meridia include abdominal pain, acid indigestion, anxiety, arthritic symptoms, back pain, constipation, cough increase, depression, dizziness, dry mouth, flu symptoms, headache, increased appetite, insomnia, joint pain, loss of appetite, loss of strength, nasal inflammation, nausea, nervousness, painful menstruation, rash, sinus inflammation, stomach ache, and sore throat.
Meridia can also cause high blood pressure in people who are already prone to the high blood pressure due to their being overweight, and so your levels should be monitored at all times when you are taking the drug. Any mood disorders that persist for more than two days, such as depression or suicidal thoughts, should be reported to a doctor.
Xenical works in a different manner than Meridia. Instead of working chemically in the brain, Xenical blocks the absorption of any dietary fat that you eat from going into your bloodstream, thereby reducing the overall number of calories you get from a meal regardless of how many you eat. Xenical is calculated to cut fat absorption by almost one-third. However, it can cause loose, oily, evil smelling and even uncontrollable stools and diarrhea as the fat is excreted from the body.
Xenical can also encourage weight gain due to people overeating due to thinking that they can 'get away with' eating bad foods because they will not absorb as much of them.
Xenical's main dangers are that in addition to not absorbing the fat via the intestines, it also decreases the absorption of some of the helpful fat-soluble vitamins in the food we eat, such as A, D, E and K, which respectively help the immune system, building strong bones, maintaining health skin, and clotting blood.
To compensate for the loss of nutrition in the foods you eat if you use this diet drug, you should take a multivitamin at least two times daily, about 2 hours before you take your dose of Xenical.
People who have nutritional issues, any problems with their gall bladder or intestines, or suffer from kidney stones should not take this diet drug.
Other side effects of Xenical include abdominal discomfort or pain, anxiety, arthritis, back pain, dizziness, fatigue, gum problems, headache, menstrual problems, muscle pain, nausea, rectal discomfort or pain, respiratory tract infections, skin rash, sleep problems, tooth problems, urinary tract infections, vaginal inflammation, and vomiting.
Alli is a reduced-strength version of orlistat (Xenical) and will carry the same side effects.
People who are tempted to use these diet drugs should be aware of the cost, and the fact that they are not always covered by health insurance. In many cases, they are far more expensive than buying fresh food from the supermarket and trying to take control of diet and exercise yourself.
In addition, before taking either of these diet drugs, your doctor should give you a thyroid test to be sure that a slow thyroid or other hormonal issue not the cause of your being overweight.