Weight Loss Medications: What You Need to Know

Discover everything you need to know about weight loss medication, from types and benefits to eligibility and safety. Get informed today!


Weight loss medication can be a valuable tool in managing obesity and achieving a healthier weight. If you’re considering these medications, here’s a quick overview:

  • Who can take weight loss medications?
  • Adults with a BMI over 30 (or over 27 with health issues influenced by weight)
  • How do they work?
  • Reduce appetite, alter hormone levels, limit fat absorption
  • Top options:
  • Semaglutide (Wegovy, Ozempic)
  • Tirzepatide (Zepbound, Mounjaro)
  • Liraglutide (Saxenda)
  • Phentermine-Topiramate (Qsymia)
  • Orlistat (Xenical, Alli)
  • Why consider them?
  • Effective for long-term weight management
  • Potential to improve overall health

Obesity is not just about appearance—it has serious health implications. Carrying extra weight can cause or worsen many conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems. That’s why weight management is crucial.

Weight loss medications can help by making lifestyle changes easier. By balancing hunger hormones and helping you feel full faster, they support efforts to eat healthier and be more active. This can lead to long-term benefits, such as:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced cholesterol
  • Decreased risk of fatty liver disease

However, it’s important to know that weight loss medications are not a magic bullet. For most people, they must be combined with diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes for the best results. They can be part of a comprehensive plan to improve your health and quality of life.

Weight Loss Medications Overview: Uses, Benefits, and Top Options - weight loss medication infographic cause_effect_text

Who Can Take Weight Loss Medications?

Not everyone is eligible for weight loss medications. Your healthcare provider will look at several factors to decide if these medications are right for you.

BMI Criteria

One of the main criteria is your Body Mass Index (BMI).

  • If your BMI is 30 or higher, you might be eligible. This level of BMI is considered obesity.
  • If your BMI is 27 or higher and you have obesity-related health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure, you may also qualify.

Health Conditions

Certain health conditions can make you eligible for weight loss medications. These include:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Heart Disease

These conditions can improve with weight loss, making the medications more beneficial for you.

Eligibility and Medical History

Your medical history is crucial. Your healthcare provider will consider:

  • Previous weight loss attempts: Have you tried diet and exercise but still struggle to lose weight?
  • Current medications: Some medications can interact with weight loss drugs.
  • Overall health: Some conditions may make weight loss medications unsafe for you.

Important Note: You should not take weight loss medications if you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding.

Discussing all these factors with your healthcare provider will help determine if weight loss medications are a good option for you.

doctor consultation - weight loss medication

Next, we will explore how weight loss medications actually work to help you shed those extra pounds.

How Do Weight Loss Medications Work?

Weight loss medications can be powerful tools in your weight management journey. They operate in different ways to help you lose weight by targeting various physiological mechanisms. Here’s a breakdown of how they work:

Appetite Suppression

One of the primary ways weight loss medications help is by suppressing your appetite. By reducing your hunger, these medications make it easier to stick to a lower-calorie diet. For example, phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia) is known for its appetite-suppressing properties.

Hormone Regulation

Weight loss medications often work by regulating hormones that control hunger and satiety. GLP-1 receptor agonists like semaglutide (Wegovy, Ozempic) and tirzepatide (Zepbound, Mounjaro) are particularly effective in this regard. These drugs mimic the hormone GLP-1, which helps you feel full longer and reduces food cravings.

Fat Absorption

Some weight loss medications work by preventing your body from absorbing fat. Orlistat (Xenical, Alli) is an example. It blocks the enzyme that breaks down fat in your diet, so about 30% of the fat you eat is not absorbed and is excreted instead. This can help reduce your overall calorie intake.

GLP-1 Agonists

GLP-1 agonists are a newer class of weight loss medications that have gained a lot of attention. These drugs not only suppress appetite but also improve insulin sensitivity and promote weight loss. According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, semaglutide led to an average weight loss of 14.9% in clinical trials.

Understanding these mechanisms can help you and your healthcare provider choose the right weight loss medication for your needs. Next, we’ll dive into some of the top weight loss medications available today.

Top Weight Loss Medications

Semaglutide (Wegovy, Ozempic)

Semaglutide is a GLP-1 receptor agonist that helps reduce appetite and promote weight loss. It’s available under two brand names: Wegovy and Ozempic. Wegovy is specifically approved for weight management, while Ozempic is mainly for type 2 diabetes but often used off-label for weight loss.

  • How to Take It: Weekly injection.
  • Side Effects: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and potential thyroid tumors in animals (though not confirmed in humans).

Tirzepatide (Zepbound, Mounjaro)

Tirzepatide is a dual agonist targeting both GLP-1 and GIP receptors. It reduces appetite and is effective for significant weight loss.

  • How to Take It: Weekly injection.
  • Side Effects: Similar to other GLP-1 drugs—nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. Serious risks include pancreatitis, gallbladder issues, and possible thyroid tumors.

Liraglutide (Saxenda)

Liraglutide is another GLP-1 receptor agonist that helps control appetite and slow stomach emptying.

  • How to Take It: Daily injection.
  • Side Effects: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and serious risks like pancreatitis and gallbladder disease.

Phentermine-Topiramate (Qsymia)

Phentermine-Topiramate is a combination drug that suppresses appetite. Phentermine acts as a stimulant, while topiramate is an anticonvulsant that also reduces appetite.

  • How to Take It: Oral medication.
  • Side Effects: Increased heart rate, insomnia, constipation, nervousness, and potential birth defects.

Orlistat (Xenical, Alli)

Orlistat is a fat absorption inhibitor that blocks about 25% of the fat you eat from being absorbed.

  • How to Take It: Oral medication.
  • Side Effects: Gastrointestinal issues like passing gas, loose stools, and potential liver injury.

These medications offer various ways to help manage weight, but each comes with its own set of potential side effects and administration methods. Next, we’ll explore the benefits and risks of using these weight loss medications.

Benefits and Risks of Weight Loss Medications

Health Improvements

Taking weight loss medications can lead to significant health benefits. Studies show that prescription weight loss drugs, combined with lifestyle changes, can result in a 5% to 10% reduction in total body weight. This weight loss can lead to:

For instance, losing just 5% of your body weight can improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Side Effects

While weight loss medications can be effective, they also come with potential side effects. Common side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

In rare cases, more serious side effects can occur. For example, some users of Semaglutide (Wegovy) and Ozempic have reported worsening of diabetic retinopathy if blood sugar levels drop too quickly. Always discuss potential side effects with your healthcare provider to make an informed decision.

Long-Term Use

The effectiveness of weight loss medications often depends on long-term use. If the medication helps you lose weight and you experience no severe side effects, your healthcare provider may recommend continued use. However, if you do not lose at least 5% of your body weight after 3 to 6 months on the full dose, it’s likely your provider will switch you to another medication.

Stopping these medications suddenly can lead to weight regain and a return of previous health issues like high blood pressure or diabetes. Therefore, it’s crucial to maintain healthy lifestyle habits even while on medication.

Insurance Coverage

One of the challenges with weight loss medications is their cost. These medications can be expensive, and insurance coverage varies widely. Many insurance companies do not cover these medications, and Medicare does not cover weight loss drugs at all. Always check with your insurance provider to understand your coverage options.

Understanding the benefits and risks of weight loss medications can help you make informed decisions about your health. Next, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions about these medications.

Frequently Asked Questions about Weight Loss Medications

What is the most effective weight loss medication?

The effectiveness of weight loss medications can vary from person to person. However, medications in the GLP-1 agonist class, such as semaglutide (Wegovy, Ozempic) and tirzepatide (Zepbound, Mounjaro), have shown significant results in clinical studies.

Semaglutide has been particularly notable. In a large clinical trial, participants taking semaglutide lost an average of 14.9% of their body weight. This makes it one of the most effective options currently available.

Tirzepatide is another powerful medication. It works as a dual agonist, targeting two different hormone receptors, which can lead to even more effective weight loss for some individuals.

How long do I need to take weight loss medications?

Weight loss medications are typically intended for long-term use. The goal is not just to lose weight but to maintain it. Many people find that they need to continue taking these medications to keep the weight off.

It’s important to combine these medications with lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet and regular exercise. This combination can help you achieve and maintain your weight loss goals more effectively.

If you haven’t lost at least 5% of your body weight after 3 to 6 months on the medication, your doctor may suggest trying a different treatment.

Are weight loss medications safe?

Like all medications, weight loss drugs come with potential side effects. Common side effects for GLP-1 agonists like semaglutide and tirzepatide include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

While these side effects are usually mild and temporary, more serious side effects can occur. These might include allergic reactions, gallbladder issues, or even suicidal thoughts.

It’s crucial to use these medications under medical supervision. Your doctor will monitor your progress and manage any side effects that arise. Always discuss your full medical history with your healthcare provider to avoid contraindications.

Understanding the answers to these frequently asked questions can help you navigate your weight loss journey more effectively. Next, we’ll look at how to get started with these medications and what to expect during treatment.


Weight loss medications can be a powerful tool in your journey to better health. They work by suppressing appetite, regulating hormones, and even inhibiting fat absorption. However, they are not a magic bullet. It’s essential to combine these medications with lifestyle changes like diet and exercise for the best results.

Personalized Care

At Westmont Pharmacy, we believe in personalized care. Each person’s weight loss journey is unique, and so are their medical needs. Our team works closely with you and your healthcare provider to tailor a weight loss plan that fits your life and health goals.

We offer a range of services to support your weight loss journey, including medication synchronization and customized medication compounding. Whether you need a liquid form of a medication for easier swallowing or a transdermal gel, we have you covered.

Local Healthcare Provider

As your local healthcare provider, Westmont Pharmacy is committed to your well-being. We offer a variety of weight loss medications and are here to answer any questions you may have. Our goal is to make your journey as smooth and effective as possible.

If you’re considering weight loss medications, contact us to find out how we can help you achieve your health goals.

Ready to take the next step? Visit our Prescription Weight Loss page to learn more about how we can assist you.