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Unless your doctor prescribed your weight-loss pills, it is safe to bet that you are just gambling away your money by buying over-the-counter (OTC) diet pills or ordering them online. There is only one exception, and that is an OTC drug called Alli, or an FDA-approved formulation of Orlistat in reduced dose.

OTC diet pills, or those sold online, promising rapid weight loss, are mostly sold as health supplements, which are believed to reduce appetite, burn fat, or detoxify your digestive system. However, most of them are ineffective over the long-term, and can cause harmful side effects. Obesity is a global problem that threatens health because it is associated with chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. If these diet pills were truly effective and safe, your doctor would recommend them to you in order to help you lose weight and prevent disease. However, most doctors would advise you to avoid them, and instead, follow a healthy balanced diet and an active lifestyle.

Prescription Weight-Loss Pills

Doctors who believe you are obese or overweight and at risk of developing complications such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease may prescribe weight loss pills that are approved by the FDA. These medications include:

  • Orlistat (Xenical), which blocks fat absorption from the foods you eat. An OTC form of this drug at a lower dose is available, with the brand name of Alli.

  • Lorcaserin (Belviq), which suppresses appetite.

  • Phentermine (Adipex, Suprenza), which helps curb appetite

  • Qsymia, a combination of phentermine and a migraine drug called topiramate, which works by reducing appetite

These drugs are often prescribed for use over a 12-week period, but if you do not achieve at least a 5% weight loss over this time, you may be advised to stop taking them because they are unlikely to work and may be associated with side effects. Furthermore, in order for these to work, you must consume a low fat diet and get some exercise.

Just like other drugs, these prescription weight loss pills have some side effects.

Discuss with your doctor about taking weight-loss pills and learn more about their side effects.

Avoid Fraudulent Diet Pills

Most health supplements and herbal products that claim to help you lose weight fast have little scientific evidence to prove their effectiveness and safety. They can drain your financial resources, especially if you have to take them for long periods. Worse of all, they can have harmful side effects such as increased blood pressure, irregular heart beats, liver problems, insomnia, headaches, and more. Many of these can also interact negatively with medications you may be taking.

Since herbal products are classified by the FDA as dietary supplements, they are not regulated and thus they can be marketed without the need for testing or regulatory review, which are usually required for prescription drugs.

The next time you are tempted to try an OTC diet pill, look for the ingredients listed. Beware of those that do not list their ingredients!

Stay away from products that promise miracle cures or rapid weight loss.

To be safe, ask your doctor about taking health supplements and do your research from reliable, non-commercialized websites that specialize in health and science.

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