Weight-Loss Pills: 5 That Will Help You Start Losing Weight

Weight-loss pills aren’t something to take lightly. The truth is that no tablet is going to magically make you skinny or lose weight — at least not any that are safe. Weight-loss pills are often prescribed by doctors and need to be taken under supervision. They can be dangerous, and if used haphazardly can end up causing some real, lasting damage to your body. The only proven, 100% effective way to lose weight is by sticking to a proper diet and exercising.

But if you must try them out …

Weight loss pills

Weight-loss pills aren’t magic, but they can help in some instances. | David McNew/Getty Images

An analysis, from researchers at the University of California, San Diego, has identified five weight loss pills that have proven effective for reducing users’ weight.

The study, published in the journal JAMA, found that for five specific medications, between 40% and 70% of users managed to lose at least 5% of their weight over the course of a year. Here are the five weight-loss pills and medications that the study covered.

1. Orlistat

Alli slimming pill is displayed for sale

Try Orlistat with a healthy diet and exercise. | Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Orlistat is a drug that works by actively suppressing your body’s ability to absorb some of the food you eat. Basically, it keeps your body from storing additional food as fat stores, helping you lose weight. It’s meant to be taken as a part of a calorie-restricted diet. You can find orlistat at pharmacies under the brand name alli and Xenical. It typically doesn’t require a prescription.

2. Lorcaserin

A woman thinks before eating, in a Belviq ad

In a Belviq ad, this woman thinks before eating. | Belviq.com

If you’ve taken or been steered toward a drug called Belviq, or previously Lorqess, you’ve been taking lorcaserin. You may have seen the commercials for Belviq, which is a drug that can manipulate your diet and appetite by correcting chemical imbalances in your brain. It helps you feel full, sending signals that it’s time to stop eating. Lorcaserin can be habit forming, and requires a prescription from a doctor.

3. Naltrexone-bupropion

A bottle of Contrave

Contrave should be used with a carefully planned diet and exercise regimen. | Contrave

Sold under the brand name Contrave, bupropion/naltrexone is a dual drug meant to help people lose weight. Again, it’s meant to be used in conjunction with a carefully planned diet and exercise regimen in order to see any real change. Some people have had a tough time seeing success with this drug, but the study mentioned previously has shown it can be effective.

4. Phentermine-topiramate

close-up of a man struggling to button his pants

This medication can be effective, but it’s not cheap. | iStock.com

Phentermine-topiramate is sold as Qsymia in stores, and though it has been proven to be at least somewhat effective, users have reported some nasty side effects. Qsymia works in a similar way to Belviq in that it does some chemical manipulation to help trigger your “fullness” sensors, reducing your appetite. You’ll need a prescription to get it, and unfortunately, a bottle can run you quite a bit of cash.

5. Liraglutide

Above, you can see a commercial for Victoza, which is the brand name for the drug liraglutide. The drug itself isn’t actually targeted at people trying to lose weight, but rather those trying to manage their diabetes. Weight loss just happens to go along with that. It’s important to note liraglutide has been shown to cause cancerous tumors in mice and rats — and for that reason, experts warn it may lead to thyroid issues for humans.

But in terms of weight loss? It shows some promise under a doctor’s supervision.