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How do Weight Loss Medications Work?

Weight loss drugs are highly sought after by adults looking to drop a lot of weight or those whose body weight is causing serious health problems for them. There are many weight loss medications available on the market. However, it is essential that you know how the medication works before taking the drug.

Weight Loss Medications and How the Work

While there may be a ton of weight loss pills and supplement promising to make you lose weight before the sun rises in the morning, there are only five weight-loss drugs that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating obesity. These are the drugs we would be considering, and here’s how they work.

1.    Reduce Absorption of Fat

Orlistat is the only medication approved by the FDA in this group. This drug is sold over the counter as Alli, Orsoten/Orsoten Slim, and under prescription as Xenical. All brands of Orlistat are prescribed for adults except Alli which is approved by the FDA for children over the age of 12.

How Does It Work?

These type of drugs help you lose weight by limiting the amount of fat that is broken down in the gut. As a result, the number of calories you take in from fat will be reduced. Depending on the brand and dosage the medication you get, Orlistat will reduce up to 40 percent of the fat absorbed by the body.

What happens to the unabsorbed fat? The unabsorbed fat passes directly through your digestive system, and out of your body in stools. To aid this process, Orlistat should be taken with your meal or within one hour of each main meal – not more than three capsules of this drug should be taken in one day.

The common side-effects you could have when taking orlistat includes; abdominal cramps, leaking oily stool, unusually large bowel movements, and difficulty in controlling bowel movements. More often than not, they are mild and temporary. If, however, you eat foods these symptoms may get worse. Contact your doctor if any of these symptoms persist.

2.    Reduce Your Appetite

These type of weight loss medications make you feel more full so that you eat less. In this group, there are four FDA-approved medications, and they are;


This is an antidiabetic drug that belongs to a class of drugs known as GLP-1 hormone producers. This medication is available as Saxena and Victoza and is available only as an injection which is administered through the stomach, thigh, or upper arm.

How does it work? This medication works by slowing down the rate at which food leaves the stomach. It also helps prevent your liver from producing too much sugar and aids the pancreas in the production of more insulin when the level of sugar in your blood is high.

Through these three processes, this medication reduces the amount of fat and calories in your body, thus, discouraging weight gain. In most cases, your doctor will start you on a low dose of this medication and increase your dose after 1 week.

The most common side effects of Liraglutide include; a headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, dry mouth, and constipation. For people who have diabetes and take this drug, the most common side effects are low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), headache, back pain, cough, and fatigue.


Lorcaserin is available under the trade name Belviq. It belongs to a group of drugs known as serotonin receptor agonists. This medication is sometimes used to treat obesity that may be related to diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, but it doesn’t cure the underlying condition.

How does it work? Lorcaserin works by affecting the part of the brain (the serotonin receptors to be particular) that helps control your appetite. When you take this medication, it makes you feel full after eating an amount of food smaller than your usual quantity. This makes you eat less leading to less accumulation of fat.

Lorcaserin comes as a tablet and an extended-release tablet, most times, your doctor will prescribe Lorcaserin along with a low-calorie diet and/or an exercise plan. Lorcaserin tablets should be taken twice daily while the extended-release tablets are usually taken with or without food once a day.

Common side effects of this medication include; nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, low blood pressure, and an increased appetite. If you have any severe side effects of a raised heart rate, pancreatitis, gallbladder disease, kidney problems, and suicidal thoughts, you should contact your doctor immediately.


This is a combination of two drugs used for weight-loss. It is available as Contrave. Naltrexone is an opiate antagonist, while bupropion is an antidepressant. This medication should be taken with a low-fat meal (or as directed by your doctor) usually twice daily.

How does this medication work? This medication will work together on separate parts of the brain to reduce appetite and how much you eat.

Nausea, constipation, a headache, vomiting, dizziness, insomnia, and a dry mouth are pervasive side effects of this medication. This medication should not be taken too close to bedtime as it can cause sleeping troubles. Read more about this medication before you decide to jump into it.


This medication is a combination of two different drugs; phentermine (an anorectic which reduces your appetite), and Topiramate (an anticonvulsant that is used to treat seizures or migraine headaches). Together, they are available as Qsymia for weight loss.

How does this medication work? This medication works by decreasing appetite and by causing feelings of fullness to last longer after eating. The medication should be taken with or without food once a day, especially in the morning, if taken in the evening, this medication may cause difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

Common side effects of this medication include; dry mouth, an unpleasant taste, diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting. Although very rare, this medication may raise your blood pressure, cause restlessness, dizziness, tremor, insomnia, shortness of breath, chest pain, and trouble doing regular activities.

Roger Walker

Roger is a writer, online marketer and part-time graphics designer with a background in Finance. His real passion, however, lies in helping his clients.

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