Weight loss medication: Not a magic pill
After a series of approvals from the Food and Drug Administration, weight loss medications like Ozempic, Mounjaro, and Wegovy have received mounting attention. Are these medications safe and effective? Yes, said Kristina R. Kratovil, M.D., of Sentara Comprehensive Weight Loss Solutions. But there’s no “magic pill.”
“These medications should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan,” Dr. Kratovil said. This may include lifestyle changes and weight loss (or bariatric) surgery. The common goal? Improving overall health.
The promise of weight loss medication
Obesity is a common, serious, and chronic disease that can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and more. Weight loss medications are an excellent way to treat the root of these health issues.
“The weight loss medication market has expanded in very exciting ways,” Dr. Kratovil said. These medications “not only help address behaviors related to the development of obesity, but also help address underlying metabolic causes for the disease.”
That means targeting the gut, liver, pancreas, and brain. “Before what we had was quite limited,” Dr. Kratovil said. “Now what we have is revolutionary.”
There is tremendous opportunity for growth in the use of weight loss drugs, according to Dr. Kratovil. At present, less than 1 percent of obese Americans use weight loss medication. In contrast, ninety percent of diabetic Americans use medication.
Who should use weight loss medications?
Weight loss “medications should not be used just for losing 10 pounds,” Dr. Kratovil emphasized. People qualify for the medications if they:
- Have a body mass index (BMI) of 27 or greater and one or more obesity-related conditions (like diabetes).
- Have a BMI of 30 or greater.
In general, being overweight is defined as a BMI of 25 or more, while a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese. Some 70 percent of Americans are considered overweight or obese, while a third are obese.
“I tell all my patients that I am not a weight loss doctor,” said Dr. Kratovil. “I’m a doctor who treats the disease of obesity.”
A comprehensive plan
Even with medication, patients may regain weight without a comprehensive treatment plan.
Loretta Harden used medication to reach a low-enough weight for bariatric surgery. She said her treatment plan includes counseling and ongoing support.
“If you have weight loss surgery and do not get the education that you need, it is a waste,” Loretta said.
“When you’re somebody who weighs six-hundred pounds and you know you’re dying from it, you want some kind of magic. You want to be able to wake up and not be like that anymore. But there is no magic solution.”
Loretta said the doctors at Sentara “care about every aspect of your life."
"They care. And you can tell."
Is weight loss medication right for you?
Dr. Kratovil said, “The moral of the story is, talk to your doctors, talk to your providers. Find out if it’s something that may or may not be an appropriate first step for you.”
Learn more about weight loss treatments at Sentara Comprehensive Weight Loss Solutions.
By: Clancy McGilligan