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Over the past years, overweight and obesity have become a global health concern. According to the World Health Organization, over four million people die as a result of being overweight or obese every year. As such, weight loss and weight management have become crucial for maintaining good overall health and quality of life.
Today, people rely on various weight loss methods. Some may choose to exercise regularly or practice yoga for weight loss to improve their posture, strengthen their body, and burn calories efficiently. Ashtanga yoga, for example, features a series of intense styles and poses that can help achieve weight loss goals.
Meanwhile, others may opt for lifestyle changes like a new diet or meal plan. And then there’s medical weight loss, where a healthcare provider may prescribe weight loss medication or procedures to help lose weight healthily. Among the different types of medical weight loss, off-label weight loss drugs have made headlines in the past few years as a viable and effective means of losing weight. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at what off-label weight loss medication is and the three benefits of taking them:
What is off-label weight loss medication?
Put simply, off-label medication1 is medication that is being used in a manner that wasn’t specified in the FDA packaging approval. While this may sound like a bad thing, healthcare providers often prescribe a specific medication for other uses — effectively promoting medically appropriate off-label use.
In the case of off-label weight loss medication, researchers and experts have found that certain FDA-approved medication meant to treat type 2 diabetes also demonstrated efficacy for weight loss and maintenance. Ozempic, for example, is only FDA-approved to treat type 2 diabetes but contains the same semaglutide found in Wegovy, which is approved for weight loss. As such, depending on various factors, including supply and prices, healthcare providers may prescribe Ozempic off-label for weight loss.
Below, we’ll look at the three benefits of using off-label weight loss medication, provided you get a prescription from a doctor or healthcare provider:
One straightforward benefit of off-label weight loss medication is that they do work. A study on the efficacy and safety of tirzepatide — contained in Mounjaro, FDA-approved for type 2 diabetes — found that it has significant potential as a weight loss drug in patients with overweight and obesity as it can target multiple aspects of the metabolic syndrome concurrently. Other GLP-1 receptor agonists2 approved for type 2 diabetes activate receptors in the brain, regulating blood sugar and reducing appetite, leading to weight loss and maintenance.
Similarly, other medications like topiramate, which is FDA-approved to treat epilepsy and migraines, can also be prescribed off-label for weight loss. This is because researchers saw weight loss as a common side effect when topiramate was approved for epilepsy in 1996.
Insurance and affordability
Another benefit of using off-label weight loss medication is that it tends to be more accessible and affordable than FDA-approved weight loss medication. This may be due to the stigmatised approach to weight loss and obesity in general. Unfortunately, some healthcare and insurance providers tend to view obesity as a cosmetic concern rather than a medical one.
On the other hand, off-label weight loss prescriptions tend to have insurance coverage as they are FDA-approved for medical conditions like type 2 diabetes or epilepsy3. Depending on supplies and your insurance coverage, your healthcare provider may opt to prescribe off-label medication to help reduce potential costs and out-of-pocket expenses.
Other health benefits
Finally, through years of ongoing research and study, off-label weight loss medication has demonstrated other health benefits besides weight loss and maintenance. Semaglutides like Ozempic, for example, have been linked with a potential to treat mental health disorders and certain psychological conditions. While more research is certainly needed, experts report that this may be due to the relationship between weight gain and people with psychological problems.
Previously, other off-label weight loss drugs have also been linked to other health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health and the likelihood of developing kidney disease. Ultimately, while enjoying affordable medical weight loss, you may also benefit from other health benefits of off-label weight loss medication. However, it’s important to note that these medications should only be used through a proper prescription.
- Rusz, Carmen-Maria, et al. “Off-label medication: from a simple concept to complex practical aspects.” International journal of environmental research and public health 18.19 (2021): 10447. ↩︎
- Meier, Juris J. “GLP-1 receptor agonists for individualized treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus.” Nature Reviews Endocrinology 8.12 (2012): 728-742. ↩︎
- Beghi, Ettore. “The epidemiology of epilepsy.” Neuroepidemiology 54.2 (2020): 185-191. ↩︎