Excess weight can cause secondary health issues to occur, but it can be difficult to lose weight with exercise and diet alone. While medications have been developed to help people lose weight, they may not be suitable for every person. Understanding how they work and any potential risks involved with taking them can help Medicare recipients make an informed decision.
Common Types of Weight Loss Medication
Sometimes called diet pills or weight-management medication, drugs that help you reduce your weight work to curb your appetite or increase a sense of feeling full. Sometimes, they may do both. Other medications in this class of drugs may also disrupt how your body absorbs fat.
The FDA has approved the following prescription medications for weight loss management:
- Orlistat (Xenical).
- Lorcaserin (Belviq).
- Naltrexone with bupropion (Contrave).
- Liraglutide (Saxenda).
- Phentermine (Adipex or Suprenza).
- Phentermine with topiramate (Qsymia).
Benefits of Weight Loss Medication
Losing weight with the help of medication can lead to several positive changes. When you reduce excess weight, you also decrease your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. Losing weight can also lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Many mobility issues involving joint or back pain and muscle stiffness are also relieved through weight loss.
Obesity can also cause sleep apnea, so losing weight can stop it from happening in certain cases. A variety of lifestyle benefits are also related to reduced weight, such as a higher sense of self confidence, improved energy levels, better mood regulation and less stress.
Side Effects and Risks Associated with Weight Loss Medication
Prescription drugs are potent medications, which means there may be a chance of experiencing mild, moderate or severe side effects. Medications that help with weight loss management may cause mild symptoms such as nausea or headaches, but some people may develop heart or liver issues that could prove serious or life-threatening.
Your primary care physician should help you evaluate your overall health before starting any weight loss medication. This can prevent severe reactions from occurring, but you may need to attend regular screenings to monitor your progress while taking a weight loss drug. If addiction to stimulant-based medications is a concern, your physician may recommend a non-stimulant weight loss medication, instead.
Medicare Coverage for Weight Loss Medication
Original Medicare benefits, which includes Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance), do not offer coverage for any prescription medications for Medicare recipients unless they are administered during an inpatient hospital stay or in an outpatient setting. None of the weight loss medications currently approved for use qualify under these terms.
Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs) do not generally offer coverage for weight loss medications, either. These PDPs are offered by third-party insurers who are contracted with Medicare, so coverage terms and formulary lists can change each year. Medicare Advantage plans provide Part A and Part B coverage along with extra benefits and may offer expanded coverage for weight loss treatment plans.