Ask Dr. Pat

Medical Monday: Weight Loss Medications

Dr. Patricia Yarberry Allen is a collaborative physician who writes a weekly Medical Monday” column for Women’s Voices for Change. (Search our archives for her posts, calling on the expertise of medical specialists, on topics from angiography to vulvar melanoma.)

This week, Dr. Pat has asked Megan Riddle, M.D./Ph.D.— a psychiatry resident at the University of Washington and a graduate of the Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan-Kettering Tri-Institutional M.D.-Ph.D. Program—to address a woman who is committed to weight loss in the new year and wants to learn how medications might help that process.

Dear Dr. Pat,

Well, it’s a new year and yet again one of my resolutions is to lose weight. For better or worse, this isn’t my first rodeo. It seems every year I want to get rid of 5, 10, or 15 pounds. I have tried improving my diet — cutting out a lot of processed food, adding more exercise, signing up for spin classes or hopping on the treadmill. Inevitably, though the pounds stay firmly in place and I get disheartened. I’ve been to my primary care doctor recently and she says I don’t have any major health issues, just some mild high blood pressure that would probably improve if I could only lose some weight. So I’m determined to make this year the year I really lose the weight and am wondering, are there any medications that might help? I remember the fen-phen fiasco and certainly don’t want to take anything that might be dangerous.  I’m 5’5” tall and this morning the scale said I’m 175 pounds. I really would like to weigh less than this a year from now.  Do I have any options?  

Sincerely,
Cindy

RELATED: More Than Willpower: Research Into Understanding Obesity

Dear Cindy,

I want to applaud you for working on your health this year. You are not alone. Of those who make New Year’s resolutions, over 21 percent resolve to lose weight, 14 percent promise themselves they will exercise more, and 7 percent opt for healthier eating. You have taken the first step on your path to weight loss by going to see your physician. Underlying health issues, particularly endocrine diseases that result in too little thyroid hormone or too much cortisol, can significantly contribute to weight gain and usually require some form of medical intervention. Now that you have ruled that out, you can work on your approach. READ MORE

Next Page: Getting off medications may facilitate weight loss

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