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Frontline drugs for those leftover pounds

Published:Wednesday | March 2, 2011 | 12:00 AM

While many of us struggle to lose weight and keep it off, many other Jamaican women, some of them already chubby, are trying to gain weight to make themselves and their spouses happy.

In the same way they achieve their goal of packing on pounds by taking an appetite-stimulating drug, others achieve weight loss by taking drugs. So, whether we have leftover pounds from pregnancy or simply consumed much more than we burned, medication can help us control it.

Good, better, best.

As a pharmacist, I do not recommend drugs or herbal supplements as the first or only choice for losing weight. My personal experience with weight loss tells me that, even if we medicate to lose weight, we will gain it all back (and more) if we do not pay attention to the basic tenets of weight management - portion control and increased physical activity. In some instances, encouragement, support or counselling may be the icing on the cake.

When to take anti-obesity drugs

Weight-loss medication is recommended for people who are seriously overweight or obese, or who are overweight with heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol. Doctors prescribe these drugs for clients who have undergone months of dieting and increased physical activity, with unsatisfactory weight loss. These drugs are often prescribed to give the frustrated client a boost - the client loses weight with the drug then maintains weight loss with a sincere effort at portion control and exercise.

Weight-loss medication is not safe during pregnancy, and should not be taken by a breast-feeding mom. Drug manufacturers do not have sufficient information on whether the drugs are secreted in breast milk or how it affects the baby.

Prescription-only items

The products work by one or more of the following mechanisms:

Suppress the appetite.

Block chemical messages in the brain to give a feeling of fullness.

Act in the gut to decrease the amount of fat which the body absorbs.

Sibutramine (Raductil, Slenfig) and Clobenzorex (Dinintel) each act on the brain to suppress appetite. If you have not lost four pounds in four weeks on the maximum dose, you should discontinue. Sibutramine may increase blood pressure. Upon stopping the drug, there is usually an increase in appetite.

Orlistat (Xenical) - if there were a way for us not to absorb most of the fat we eat, then we would lose weight. This is how Orlistat helps - it causes about 30 per cent of this fat to pass through the system. The downside includes the fact that it may produce an increased urge to defecate, plus oily stools and accidental oily spotting.

Dahlia McDaniel is a pharmacist and final-year doctoral candidate in public health at the University of London; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com.