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Home / Weight Loss / Weight loss medications

Weight loss medications

Discover and compare the different types of treatments for weight loss

For people who are overweight or obese, losing weight is no easy task. Often, there is more to weight loss than simply eating fewer calories. Factors that could be slowing your progress include:

  • your hormones (during menopause, for example)
  • suffering from certain medical conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid)
  • leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • feeling stressed or suffering with your mental health
  • eating a diet high in ultra-processed foods

Being obese increases your chances of developing life-threatening conditions like heart disease and diabetes. By lowering your body weight, you can lower these risks and improve your overall health.

If you’ve been struggling to lose weight with diet and exercise alone, your doctor might recommend taking treatment for weight loss. This involves taking clinically proven medication that increases your chances of losing weight successfully.

There are several kinds of weight loss treatments available. Keep reading to learn about the different types and how they compare against one another.

What are weight loss medications?

There is no magic cure for losing weight. You can’t drink a special detox tea or take diet pills that will transform your body overnight.

You can, however, take medications that change the way your body works - making it easier to lose weight. These are long-term treatments that require patience. Remember, healthy weight loss takes time. You can’t shed 10 kilos in a month.

A bottle of pills next to some scales and a tape measure

Vast amounts of research and clinical studies have shown just how effective weight loss drugs can be.

While the drugs can make weight loss easier, you also have to put in the work. The most successful results are achieved when you combine treatment with lifestyle and healthy diet changes. This includes choosing the right foods and moving more.

What types of weight loss medications are available?

Weight loss treatments come in two forms: injections and pills.

Weight loss injections are sometimes referred to as ‘skinny jabs’. They are injected either weekly or daily, depending on which brand you are using. Every 4 weeks you can increase your dose, helping to accelerate your weight loss.

Weight loss pills have to be taken daily. These should be spaced evenly throughout the day, and sometimes taken specifically after meals.

If you are interested in trying treatment for weight loss but aren’t sure which type is best, ask a doctor or healthcare professional. Your preference also matters. For example, if you are afraid of needles you’ll be better suited to taking pills.

Weight loss injections

Weight loss injections contain a group of medicines called GLP-1 agonists. They mimic the hormones in your gut and help with weight loss by:

  • reducing appetite (so you feel less hungry)
  • slowing down gastric emptying (leaving you feeling fuller for longer)
  • regulating blood sugar (reducing food cravings)

You can only start taking weight loss injections if your body mass index (BMI) is 30 or above. However, some people with weight-related conditions can take GLP-1s if their BMI is 27 or above. Your doctor will also look at your medical history to see if you qualify to take this treatment.

A woman injecting herself with an injection pen

While it is safe for most people to take weight loss injections, they are not suitable for those who:

  • are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • have a family history of MTC (medullary thyroid carcinoma) or MEN 2 (multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2)

Wegovy

Wegovy contains a GLP-1 agonist called Semaglutide. It is injected once per week. Every four weeks you can increase the dose until you reach the maximum maintenance dose.

Weogvy has recently been approved for weight loss. Due to this, it has become a replacement for Ozempic.

Ozempic contains the same active ingredient as Wegovy and is taken in the same way. However, Ozempic is licensed for type 2 diabetes - not weight loss. it is now only available to people who require diabetes treatment.

Research has proven that Semagutide works very effectively at managing weight loss. It does, however, cause common side effects including nausea, diarrhoea, and other gastric issues.

One study Trusted source The New England Journal of Medicine Peer-reviewed Journals Medical Research and Review Go to source taken on around 2000 people (with a BMI of 30 or above) found that:

  • People taking Semaglutide lost (on average) 15.3 kilos over the 68-week trial.
  • Whereas people taking the placebo lost (on average) 2.6 kilos over the 68-week trial.
A graph showing the results from a study on Wegovy

As shown by the study’s results, Wegovy is very likely to increase your weight loss when taken long-term. For best results, combine treatment with more daily activity and carefully choose which foods you eat.

Please note: You can only be prescribed Wegovy (or other GLP-1 treatments) if you:

  • have a BMI of 30 or above
  • have a BMI of 27 or above (and have weight-related health conditions)

Looking to start Wegovy?

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Saxenda

Saxenda contains a different GLP-1 agonist called Liraglutide. Like other weight loss injections, it works by reducing your appetite and making you feel fuller for longer.

Saxenda injections must be taken every day. Every four weeks you can increase the dose, helping to achieve greater results.

Liraglutide has also been proven to work very effectively at aiding in weight loss.

One study Trusted source PubMed Government Source Database of Biomedical Research Go to source that spanned over 56 weeks compared the effects of Liraglutide compared with a placebo. The results found that:

  • Weight loss of 5% or greater occurred in 54.3% of patients taking Liraglutide, and in 21.4% of those taking the placebo.
  • Weight loss of 10% or greater occurred in 25.2% of patients taking Liraglutide, and in 6.7% of those taking the placebo.
A table showing results from a study on Liraglutide

Compared with the placebo group, those taking Liraglutide throughout the study experienced greater weight loss.

Looking to start Saxenda?

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Weight loss pills

Weight loss pills work differently from injections, mainly because they contain different active ingredients. There are two different types currently licensed for weight loss: Mysimba and Xenical.

Mysimba

Mysimba contains two active ingredients which work together to help you lose weight. These are called Naltrexone and Bupropion.

The ingredients affect parts of the brain that manage hunger and energy balance. By reducing your appetite and increasing energy expenditure, it makes it easier to stick to a lower-calorie diet.

Studies have shown that Mysimba is effective at helping with weight management. One set of results Trusted source European Medicines Agency (EMA) Government Source Medication Regulation and Research (EU) Go to source showed that:

  • Average weight loss in patients treated with Mysimba ranged from 3.7-5.7%
  • Average weight loss in patients taking the placebo ranged from 1.3-1.9%

While Mysimba pills can help accelerate your weight loss, you must also make necessary lifestyle changes. As well as doing more exercise, choose nutritious whole foods over ultra-processed foods. You should also stop eating once you feel full during mealtimes and limit snacking.

Mysimba is suitable for the majority of obese people. However, you should not take Mysimba if you have:

  • history of seizures
  • a brain tumour
  • any kind of alcohol or drug dependency (including opiates)
  • history of psychological issues
  • uncontrolled high blood pressure

Looking to start Mysimba?

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Xenical

Xenical is a brand name for a medication called Orlistat. It helps you lose weight by reducing fat absorption.

Xenical prevents enzymes from breaking down some of the fats in your diet. Instead of storing it, the fat passes straight through your system instead. With this medication, roughly 30% of your fat intake will no longer be absorbed by the body.

Orlistat has been shown to be an effective weight loss drug that is generally well-tolerated. One clinical trial Trusted source National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Government Source Biomedical Research and Literature Go to source showed that it caused significant weight reduction in comparison with a placebo.

Orlistat Placebo
Reduction in weight 4.65 kg 2.5 kg
Reduction in waist circumference 4.84 cm 2 cm
Reduction in cholesterol 10.68 mg 6.18 mg

Just like all of the mentioned weight loss drugs, Xenical is only available with a doctor’s prescription. However, lower doses of Orlistat (a brand called Alli) can be purchased over the counter.

Please note that you may not be suitable to take Xenical if you:

  • have chronic malabsorption syndrome
  • have a liver disorder called cholestasis
  • have an allergy to Orlistat or any of the other ingredients contained in Xenical
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding

Looking to start Xenical?

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What are the pros and cons of weight loss treatments?

The following table outlines some of the pros and cons of the above weight loss treatments.

Pros Cons Side effects
Wegovy Administered once per week
Most effective according to studies
Requires self-injection Gastrointestinal issues and nausea
Saxenda Second most effective according to studies Administered every day
Requires self-injection
Gastrointestinal issues and nausea
Mysimba Doesn’t require an injection Can be easy to forget your daily pill(s) Nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, constipation
Orlistat Doesn’t require an injection Can be easy to forget your daily pill(s) Oily stools, faecal urgency, flatulence

Please note that all of the listed drugs have been licensed for weight loss management.

Which weight loss treatment is right for me?

It can be difficult to decide which weight loss drug would be the most beneficial to you.

Try our interactive tool to see which treatment we’d recommend based on your preferences.

Weight loss treatment is available to order here at euroClinix. As well as a free consultation, the price includes free delivery in discreet packing.

Looking for weight loss treatment?

Click here
Medically reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 05-01-2024
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Further reading

Saxenda results: expectations vs. reality

Saxenda results: expectations vs. reality

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Understanding Saxenda Side Effects

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Wegovy: How well does it work and how quickly?

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