Current Drug Therapy

Pharmacotherapy for obesity: What you need to know

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For obese patients, when lifestyle modifications do not result in the desired weight loss, pharmacotherapy is an option. Practitioners have several FDA-approved options for weight management. Because of evidence that these drugs can postpone the onset of other complications and improve metabolic and cardiovascular parameters, they should be considered.

In phase 3 trials, these drugs caused modest weight loss of 5% to 10% of body weight. More weight was lost with the combination of phentermine-topiramate than with the other drugs.

In a 2016 meta-analysis, these drugs were associated with at least 5% weight reduction compared with placebo.48 Phentermine-topiramate and liraglutide were most likely to produce at least a 5% weight loss, while liraglutide and naltrexone-bupropion were most likely to be discontinued because of adverse events. Combination drugs may have the advantages of synergistic effects on weight loss and fewer adverse reactions because lower doses of the individual drug components are used.

Response to therapy with most of these drugs should be evaluated at 12 weeks on the maintenance dose. If less than 5% weight loss has been achieved, the medication should be discontinued.

Adverse-effect profiles, drug interactions, abuse, misuse, and overdose potential should be considered when prescribing these drugs. Weight-loss drugs are contraindicated in pregnancy because they offer no potential benefit to a pregnant woman and may harm the fetus.

The development of new drugs and better drug combinations is expected to provide more effective therapeutic strategies, which are essential for combating the obesity epidemic.

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