Anti-obesity medications are a class of medications that have a primary indication for the treatment of obesity. Obesity is a multi-factorial chronic disease and like other chronic diseases, it is treated by a combination of lifestyle behavior change and medication.
Our view of medication use and obesity has changed over the past few years as we’ve learned more about the physiological and biochemical challenges of weight loss and weight maintenance. Both weight loss and maintenance are feats that go against nature. Our body’s natural instinct is to protect its weight. This becomes a problem when we have excess fat storage that we intentionally want to decrease.
Medication for treating the disease of obesity has been used since the 1950s. Initially, it was thought that we would only need medication to help jump start the weight-loss process. However, we now know that it is much more complicated, and anti-obesity medications can help in the long term to prevent weight regain and fight against the body’s nature to restore weight even when it is not healthy to do so. Just as we may take medication for other behavior challenges (anxiety, depression, impulse control, ADHD), taking medication for obesity helps in a similar way. Some patients may need multiple medications or medication combined with surgery to be as successful as possible.
Anti-obesity medications are useful in combating the physiological biochemical cascade that comes with weight loss to promote appetite. They can also be useful in helping patients adopt the behavioral changes necessary for long-term weight management. Many patients say they don’t want to take medication or have surgery because they want to “do it on their own.” This thought process comes from a longstanding belief that it is somehow the individual’s fault that they have the disease of obesity. Recognizing that it is chemistry more than character that fuels the ongoing struggle of obesity can help patients understand that medications and surgery are important tools in the fight. The fight is an ongoing daily battle that can’t be won but can be conquered and controlled with enough tools, time, and effort.
For more information regarding anti-obesity medications, check out the medication presentations available in the Obesity Medicine Academy.