What Are the Dangers of Diet Pills for Weight Loss?

Amphetamine-like and other stimulant drugs have been used for a long time to suppress appetite and facilitate weight loss. However, significant sustained weight loss has not been achieved with these drugs, and rapid weight gain usually occurs when these drugs are discontinued. There are many side-effects and health risks associated with use of weight-loss drugs and there is also some potential for these types of drugs to be abused.
Phentermine and Fenfluramine have been available for about 25 years. In the absence of a reduced-calorie diet and regular exercise, these pills are ineffective. The combined use of these two drugs has never been approved by the FDA.
Fenfluramine (Pondimin®) and dexfenfluramine (Redux®) are considered hazardous. People who used these drugs needed to engage in regular physical activity in order to develop sustained weight loss. Weight regain occurs once these drugs are stopped; in other words “yo-yo” dieting is common with these drugs. In high doses both have caused brain cell damage in experimental animals. Some people developed primary pulmonary hypertension while taking these drugs and this was related to damage to heart valves. In 1997, both drugs were removed from the market by the FDA because serious damage to heart valves was discovered in many users.
Phentermine has not been associated with heart-valve damage. However, it can raise blood pressure and is dangerous if used by anyone who is hypertensive or taking blood pressure medicine.
Any patient who is considering bariatric surgery for weight loss, and who has taken these medications in the past, should discuss the need for an ultrasound of the heart, an Echocardiogram, prior to surgery to ensure that the heart function was not damaged by these drugs.
Orlistat (Xenical®) works in the intestine by blocking the absorption of dietary fat. This drug is generally taken three times per day with meals. A low-fat diet is necessary for Xenical® to work! If you eat high fat food, you will usually develop severe intestinal symptoms, diarrhea or very foul smelling flatus (gas). These symptoms can be prevented by strict adherence to a very low-fat diet. The amount of weight lost with this drug is usually small, and weight regain will occur when the drug is discontinued. Studies may be developed where this drug is used in combination with the Lap-Band® for improved long-term weight loss.
Sibutramine (Meridia®) is an appetite suppressant that seems to have minimal effectiveness in most people. This drug may increase heart rate and blood pressure, or cause insomnia, headache, constipation, and dry mouth. Life-threatening interactions with certain antidepressant and migraine medications may occur. It should be avoided by pregnant women and by nursing mothers.
If you are serious about weight loss, avoid the pills and talk with an expert weight loss specialist at The N.E.W. Program. Click the button below to schedule an appointment.