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Make sure you know about each of the medicines you take. This includes why you take it, how to take it, what you can expect while you're taking it, and any warnings about the medicine.
The information provided here is general. So be sure to read the information that came with your medicine. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your pharmacist, doctor, or nurse practitioner.
Here are some examples of weight-loss medicines. For each item in the list, the generic name is first, followed by any brand names.
Doctors or Nurse Practitioners prescribe weight loss medicines for people who have obesity or overweight and have other health problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. These medicines may help some people who haven't been able to lose weight with diet and exercise.
Non-prescription weight-loss products aren't recommended. Some have dangerous side effects, and others have no proven benefit.
Different medicines produce different results in different people.
Studies show that when people took:footnote 1
Weight-loss medicines should be used along with healthy eating and being more active. Many people regain the weight they lost after they quit taking weight-loss medicines.
Weight-loss medicine doesn't work for everyone. If you don't lose weight within 4 weeks after you start the medicine talk with your doctor or nurse practitioner to see if weight-loss medicine is the right choice for you.
Most weight-loss medicines have side effects like nausea, vomiting, headaches, and constipation. Some weight-loss medicines are more likely to cause side effects than others. For example, nausea is a common side effect of Contrave, Saxenda, and Wegovy/Ozempic. Xenical can cause changes in bowel habits. These changes may include oily or fatty stool and being unable to control bowel movements. Sometimes the side effects are mild and go away over time.
Research shows that up to half of people who take weight-loss medicines quit because of side effects.footnote 2
If your doctor or nurse practitioner prescribes a weight-loss medicine for you, tell them about all prescription and over-the-counter medicines, and natural health products that you take.
Your doctor or nurse practitioner will want to know about any side effects you have. They will watch to see if your weight loss improves your type 2 diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
All weight-loss medicines can cause side effects. Some side effects sometimes go away after a while.
But sometimes side effects can be a problem or can be serious.
If you're having problems with side effects, talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner, they may be able to lower your dose or change to a different medicine.
Always be sure you get specific information on the weight-loss medicine you're taking. For a full list of side effects, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist, doctor, or nurse practitioner.
Some weight-loss medicines can put you at risk for increased blood pressure, a faster heart rate, headaches, sleep problems, and unpleasant changes in bowel habits. Liraglutide (Saxenda) and Semaglutide (Wegovy/Ozempic) can increase the risk of certain thyroid tumors. It is important to discuss your risk with your doctor or nurse practitioner.
Always tell your doctor, nurse practitioner, or pharmacist about all the medicines you take. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines and natural health products. That information will help prevent serious problems.
Always be sure you get specific information on the medicine you're taking. For a full list of warnings, check the information that came with the medicine you're using. If you have questions, talk to your pharmacist or doctor.
Weight-loss medicines can range in cost. But they can be expensive. If you and your doctor or nurse practitioner have decided that you need a weight-loss medicine, make sure you know how much you will have to pay.
Take time to find out about how your private health insurance covers the cost of these medicines. Your insurance company may not pay for the medicines. Ask the customer service representative these questions:
Many insurance companies also list this information on their websites.
CitationsDiet, drugs, and surgery for weight loss (2015). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 57(1462): 21–28.Diet, drugs, and surgery for weight loss (2015). Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, 57(1462): 21–28.
Adaptation Date: 10/10/2023
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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