HomeHealthDiet and NutritionIs newest weight-loss drug a magic bullet?

Is newest weight-loss drug a magic bullet?

The suite of medications geared towards weight loss continues to grow, with Britain’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) this month approving an injection-delivered drug branded as Wegovy for use within the National Health Service system.

It joins other products, including Orlistat and Naltrexone-Bupropion, in the seemingly ever-expanding weight-loss drug market. Wegovy is in fact a new iteration of an existing weight-loss drug Semaglutide, which has been available for some time under the brand name Ozempic.

But if you’re looking for a little something to help you knock off a few unwanted kilos, don’t be fooled – Semaglutide is unlikely to be for you.

Like many other weight-loss drugs, Semaglutide is aimed at people with at least one weight-related health condition, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnoea or heart issues, and those who are classified as being in the obese range, with a BMI of 30 or more.

As well as the growing suite of drugs available for the treatment of weight-related health issues, some drugs prescribed for an entirely unrelated reason can produce weight loss as a side-effect.

As a diagnosed ADHD adult, I was recently prescribed dexamphetamine by my psychiatrist. During our consultation I mentioned my habit of having unhealthy late-night snacks, to which he responded with words to the effect of, “You won’t have that problem once you start on the dexamphetamine.”

Being more focused on resolving my ADHD issues, I paid little heed to that comment, but within days my cravings disappeared. I have since lost nine kilos and have dropped from the obese BMI range to overweight. I now have friends who jokingly proclaim they are going to try to feign ADHD!

Of course, drugs that are expressly made to assist with weight loss can have their own side-effects, and they aren’t always positive. In the case of Wegovy and Ozempic, which are essentially different doses of Semaglutide, side-effects can include nausea, headaches, constipation and diarrhoea.

In Australia, both Wegovy and Ozempic are already on the TGA’s Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), but Wegovy has not yet been launched here. In fact, there is currently a shortage of Ozempic here.

Novo Nordisk, which manufactures both Wegovy and Ozempic, has advised that supplies have started to return to normal, but the TGA in the meantime has approved multiple overseas-registered Semaglutide medicines for use until the issue is fully resolved.

There are other approved weight-loss drugs approved for use in Australia, including those detailed below.

Orlistat, available under the brand names Xenical and Prolistat among others, is taken as a tablet or capsule, works by inhibiting gastric and pancreatic lipase enzymes that break down fat in the digestive system.

Orlistat has been shown in some trials to prevent up to one-third of dietary fat from food being digested by the body, but it, too, comes with potential side-effects, including weakness, stomach pain, flatulence and our old friend diarrhoea.

Liraglutide is administered via injection and serves to make you feel fuller and less hungry. While not a side-effect, one of the downsides of Liraglutide is that it must be injected daily via a pre-filled pen, a method to which some will be averse. It comes with the ‘usual’ side-effects (headache, nausea, etc), with toothache also reported. Liraglutide is available in Australia under the brand names Saxona and Victoza.

Naltrexone-Bupropion, taken as a tablet up to four times daily, works by combining (as the name suggests) Naltrexone, an opiate antagonist, and Bupropion, an antidepressant. When combined, they appear to work by targeting the central nervous system pathways responsible for hunger and eating. Dizziness, nausea and drowsiness again top the list of side-effects.

In Australia, Naltrexone-Bupropion is sold under the brand name Contrave 8/90 and is available via prescription only.

As the list of weight-loss drug continues to grow, so can the levels of confusion about which is best for you. The best advice is, therefore, to make an informed decision with the assistance of your GP.

Have you tried using a weight-loss drug? Did you find it effective? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Also read: Why is it so hard to keep weight off once you’ve lost it?

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigaczhttps://www.patreon.com/AndrewGigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.
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