Public Release: 

Experts recommend weight loss drugs, surgery as supplement to lifestyle interventions

Endocrine Society publishes Clinical Practice Guideline on medications for treating obesity

The Endocrine Society

Washington, DC--The Endocrine Society today issued a Clinical Practice Guideline (CPG) on strategies for prescribing drugs to manage obesity and promote weight loss.

The CPG, entitled "Pharmacological Management of Obesity: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline," was published online and will appear in the February 2015 print issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM), a publication of the Endocrine Society.

Obesity is a worsening public health problem. According to the 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, about 33.9 percent of adults ages 19-79 were overweight, 35.1 percent were obese and 6.4 were extremely obese.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved four new anti-obesity drugs - lorcaserin, phentermine/topiramate, naltrexone/bupropion and liraglutide - in the past two years. Medications like these can be used in combination with diet and exercise to help people lose weight.

"Lifestyle changes should always be a central part of any weight loss strategy," said Caroline M. Apovian, MD, of Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center, and chair of the task force that authored the guideline. "Medications do not work by themselves, but they can help people maintain a healthy diet by reducing the appetite. Adding a medication to a lifestyle modification program is likely to result in greater weight loss."

In the CPG, the Endocrine Society recommends that diet, exercise and behavioral modifications be part of all obesity management approaches. Other tools such as weight loss medications and bariatric surgery can be combined with behavioral changes to reduce food intake and increase physical activity. Patients who have been unable to successfully lose weight and maintain a goal weight may be candidates for prescription medication if they meet the criteria on the drug's label.

Other recommendations from the CPG include:

  • If a patient responds well to a weight loss medication and loses 5 percent or more of their body weight after three months, the medication should be continued. If the medication is ineffective or the patient experiences side effects, the prescription should be stopped and an alternative medication or approach considered.

  • Since some diabetes medications are associated with weight gain, people with diabetes who are obese or overweight should be given medications that promote weight loss or have no effect on weight as first- and second-line treatments. Doctors should discuss medications' potential effects on weight with patients.

  • Certain types of medication - angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers and calcium channel blockers - should be used as a first-line treatment for high blood pressure in obese people with Type 2 diabetes. These are effective blood pressure treatments that are less likely to contribute to weight gain than the alternative medication, beta-adrenergic blockers.

  • When patients need medications that can have an impact on weight such as antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs and medications for treating epilepsy, they should be fully informed and provided with estimates of each option's anticipated effect on weight. Doctors and patients should engage in a shared-decision making process to evaluate the options.

  • In patients with uncontrolled high blood pressure or a history of heart disease, the medications phentermine and diethylpropion should not be used.


The Hormone Health Network offers resources on weight and health at

Other members of the Endocrine Society task force that developed this CPG include: Louis J. Aronne of Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York, NY; Daniel H. Bessesen of Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, CO; Marie E. McDonnell of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA; Mohammad Hassan Murad of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN; Uberto Pagotto of Alma Mater University of Bologna in Bologna, Italy; Donna H. Ryan of Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA; and Christopher D. Still of Geisinger Health Care System in Danville, PA.

The Society established the CPG Program to provide endocrinologists and other clinicians with evidence-based recommendations in the diagnosis and treatment of endocrine-related conditions. Each CPG is created by a task force of topic-related experts in the field. Task forces rely on scientific reviews of the literature in the development of CPG recommendations. The Endocrine Society does not solicit or accept corporate support for its CPGs. All CPGs are supported entirely by Society funds.

The CPG was co-sponsored by the European Society of Endocrinology and The Obesity Society.

Founded in 1916, the Endocrine Society is the world's oldest, largest and most active organization devoted to research on hormones and the clinical practice of endocrinology. Today, the Endocrine Society's membership consists of over 18,000 scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students in 122 countries. Society members represent all basic, applied and clinical interests in endocrinology. The Endocrine Society is based in Washington, DC. To learn more about the Society and the field of endocrinology, visit our site at Follow us on Twitter at!/EndoMedia.

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