Everything you need to know about the newest weight-loss Rx.
If you overheard someone on TV this morning asking you, "Did you know two areas of your brain can make it hard to lose weight?" you've seen the commercial for Contrave, the newest weight-loss prescription claiming to make dropping lbs way easier.
The ad says that this new medication works in the part or your brain that controls hunger and the "pleasure center" that makes you equate French fries to crack (well, you know what we mean).
Still, this isn't the first time we've heard that a prescription med can help you reach your get fit goal faster.
With that in mind, here's what you need to know about the newest weight-loss pill and if it will work for you.
How It Works
Contrave combines bupropion, an antidepressant, and naltrexone, which is used to treat addiction, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Together, these drugs act on the impulse, reward, and hunger centers of the brain.
Contrave increases satiety after eating and blocks opioid receptors in the brain that associate high-calorie food with pleasure, says Natalie Muth, M.D., R.D., a board-certified obesity medicine specialist and co-author of the Picky Eater Project: 6 Weeks to Happier, Healthier Family Mealtimes.
"So people who take this medicine tend to eat less because they feel full sooner and they're less susceptible to emotional eating, says Muth.
For those reasons, Muth says that this prescription is especially helpful for people suffering from food addictions.
Can It Help You Lose Weight?
According to Contrave’s website, three 56-week studies found that Contrave patients lost up to four times more weight than dieters who didn't use the prescription.
The studies also found that 46 percent of patients lost at least 5 percent of their body weight—while only 23 percent of those who took a placebo lost the same amount.
Although bupropion and naltrexone work in some parts of your brain to block appetite and cravings, there are other pathways in your brain that control hunger and cravings that the medicine doesn't affect, says David Katz, M.D., the founding director of Yale University's Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and a medical professional.
When one pathway is blocked, others can compensate over time, meaning the medication could become less effective, says Katz. And then there's the fact that the meds only work as long as you're taking them, he says.
Once you stop using Contrave, your appetite and cravings will come back—which could lead to regaining the weight you lost, he says. (Learn how you can start losing weight ASAP with Women's Health's Body Clock Diet.)
Is It Safe?
So the risk of stopping Contrave may be significant, but what about the risk of staying on it?
"This medication has significant risks including nausea, constipation, headache, vomiting, dizziness, increased blood pressure and heart rate, liver damage, glaucoma, and increased seizure risk," Muth says.
It also has a warning on the box for increased suicidal thoughts, she says. However, this is pretty normal for antidepressant medications like bupropion.
Anyone with a seizure disorder, uncontrolled hypertension, opioid use, or who is pregnant should not take this, says Muth
The non-profit research group Consumer Reports, who worked with drug safety experts to examine the Contrave studies, suggests that Contrave can help someone lose weight safely if they're able to tolerate the drug.
However, they report that 24 percent of people stopped taking the meds during clinical trials because of the side effects (as did 12 percent of people who took a placebo).
Start working towards your weight loss goals with these fat-torching moves.
The Bottom Line
Obviously, it's important to talk to your doctor to see if you're even eligible to take the prescription, which requires patients to have a minimum body mass index of 30.
You also need to discuss how you'll be able to maintain your weight loss after you're finished taking the meds, says Katz.
Katz says that when he prescribes weight-loss medications he proceeds with caution.
"Generally, I use it for people who have a medical need to lose weight but feel unable to do it without a boost," he says.
In the long term, Katz says he works with those patients to transition from relying on the prescription to eating healthy and getting active.
About Article Author