Obesity Weight Loss Drugs

Over-the-counter (OTC) weight loss drugs are a multimillion-dollar industry in the United States. As a treatment for obesity, however, OTC diet pills should be considered with caution. Many top diet pills provide only temporary weight loss, contain potentially dangerous substances, or simply don’t work.

FDA and Weight Loss Pills

Most OTC diet pills are sold as dietary supplements, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t subject to the same scrutiny as prescription drugs. In fact, the FDA doesn’t usually step in to control dietary supplements unless evidence shows the supplement as a health hazard (such as the now-banned ephedra).

As a result, top diet pills vary widely in terms of content, quality of ingredients and dosages. Only one of the many weight loss drugs and supplements on the market, orlistat, is FDA-approved as a treatment of obesity.

Types of OTC Diet Pills

Weight loss pills come in several varieties, which supposedly fight weight gain in different ways. Here are some examples of OTC diet pills:

  • Appetite suppressants are OTC diet pills that reduce appetite and mimic feelings of fullness.
  • Carb blockers are weight loss pills that claim to prevent absorption of carbohydrates in the digestive system.
  • Fat blockers are weight loss drugs that may prevent the absorption of fat.
  • Fat burners are designed to increase metabolism.
  • Legal ephedra are OTC diet pills that provide substitutes for the banned dietary supplement ephedra.
  • Nighttime fat burners are weight loss pills that claim to increase metabolism while you sleep.

Dangerous Weight Loss Drugs

Some over-the-counter weight loss drugs can be dangerous. For example, a group of top diet pills, called “Brazilian diet pills,” contains hidden amphetamines, antidepressants and other potentially habit-forming drugs.

Some over-the-counter drugs are abused for weight loss. Both diuretics and laxatives are used in the mistaken belief that they provide a treatment for obesity. In fact, abusing these can produce serious — and potentially fatal — health complications.

Using OTC Diet Pills

Since over-the-counter weight loss pills can contain many different substances, be sure that a supplement doesn’t contain anything that could worsen an existing medical condition or interact negatively with other medications you may be taking. Many OTC diet pills emphasize that their ingredients are natural, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re safe.

Before starting a treatment for obesity, consult with a doctor about its safety and whether not it’s appropriate for you. While the best treatment of obesity remains a combination of regular exercise and healthy eating habits, some OTC diet pills may result in a small amount of additional weight loss under the right circumstances.


Mayo Clinic. (2010). Over-the-counter weight-loss pills: Do they work? Retrieved May 3, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/weight-loss/HQ01160.

MedicineNet. (2005). Weight loss: Over-the-counter and herbal remedies for weight loss. Retrieved May 3, 2010, from http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=42604.