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Can I get a weight loss prescription online?

Updated on April 11, 2024. Previously written on December 23, 2022 by Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

In the United States, nearly one in three adults is overweight, and more than two in five adults are obese. [1] Unfortunately, these conditions can lead to significant health consequences, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders, and certain cancers. [2]

The good news is that there are weight loss prescriptions available for those who qualify. That said, can you get a weight loss prescription online?

We explore the online prescription and weight loss treatment options below.

Exploring the Importance and Impact of Body Weight

Your weight, or how much you weigh, is almost always taken as a vital sign when you visit your healthcare provider. But have you taken the time to think about what exactly your “weight” means?

In the realm of physics, weight is defined as the gravitational force acting upon your body. This concept is encapsulated by one of Newton's renowned equations: Force equals mass multiplied by acceleration (F=ma). [3]

In simpler terms, your weight represents the force exerted on your body, calculated by multiplying your mass by the gravitational acceleration. [3] That said, beyond its scientific explanation, 'weight' signifies the numerical value reflecting the mass of an object, typically expressed in standardized units. [3] In America, we measure weight in pounds.

Speaking with your healthcare provider about your lifestyle changes to lose weight can be a sensitive topic. However, it’s necessary to prioritize your long-term health. When your weight is higher than what’s considered healthy for a given height, you can be described as being overweight or obese. [4] Typically, these classifications are determined by your body mass index or BMI. In particular, a BMI that’s 30 or greater falls within the obesity classification. [4]

That said, obesity can be divided into three categories or classes [4]:

  • Class 1: BMI of 30 to <35
  • Class 2: BMI of 35 to <40
  • Class 3: BMI of 40 or higher (often considered severe obesity)

As stated, obesity is a dangerous condition and it can contribute to various health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, and certain cancers [5].

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of adult obesity in the United States was approximately 41.9% from 2017 to 2020 [6]. In addition to the health risk, obesity-related medical costs in the United States are nearly $173 billion [6].

Everlywell Weight Loss Support

Prescription Weight Loss Medications

Prescription medications are a class of drugs that a healthcare provider must prescribe to a patient. In other words, an individual cannot purchase them off the shelf like over-the-counter medications or nonprescription drugs. [7, 8]

Oftentimes, if they deem it appropriate, a healthcare professional will prescribe weight loss medications in addition to lifestyle change recommendations, such as diet or exercise. [8]

To qualify for a prescription weight loss medication, you must typically [8]:

  • Have a BMI over 30
  • Have a BMI over 27, and an obesity-related medical condition like diabetes or high blood pressure

Benefits of Prescription Weight Loss Medications

Patients on weight loss medications can lose three to 12 percent more body weight compared to patients who lose weight with diet and exercise alone. [7, 8]. To put that into perspective, a weight loss of five to 10 percent can lead to significant health benefits. [7, 8]

Namely, these types of weight loss treatment medications support weight loss by making you feel less hungry and more satiated to prevent overeating. [8]

Side Effects of Prescription Weight Loss Medication

Taking medications, in general, is not without risks. Weight loss medications have their own side effects, which include [8, 9]:

  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

That said, these symptoms can lessen over time with use [8]. Additional adverse reactions include dry mouth, insomnia and oily stools. Fortunately, weight loss drugs rarely cause serious, life-threatening side effects. [9]

Types Of Weight Loss Medications

Weight loss medications can work by suppressing your appetite, increasing your metabolism, slowing down your stomach emptying, or decreasing your absorption of food [8,10].

Depending on the weight loss medication, it can be used short-term or long-term and be taken by mouth or administered as an injection [10]. For example, phentermine (Adipex-P, Ionamin) and diethylpropion (Tenuate) are two drugs that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved for short-term use as an anti-obesity drug [10].

As of 2023, there are seven FDA-approved long-term use weight loss medications [8, 10]:

  • Bupropion-naltrexone (Contrave®) – Contrave® is a combination medication composed of two drugs: bupropion and naltrexone. Bupropion is an antidepressant and smoking cessation aid, while naltrexone is used to treat alcohol and opioid dependence. Together, they work to reduce appetite and food cravings.
  • Liraglutide (Saxenda®) – Saxenda® is an injectable medication that contains liraglutide, a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist. GLP-1 receptor agonists help regulate appetite and food intake by mimicking the effects of the naturally occurring hormone GLP-1. GLP-1 medication in the form of a weight loss injection increases feelings of fullness and reduces food cravings.
  • Orlistat (Xenical®, Alli®) – Orlistat is a medication that works by inhibiting the absorption of dietary fats in the intestines. It blocks the action of lipase, an enzyme responsible for breaking down fats into smaller molecules that can be absorbed by the body. By reducing fat absorption, Orlistat helps individuals consume fewer calories from fat and promotes weight loss.
  • Phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia®) – Qsymia® is a combination medication that contains phentermine and topiramate extended-release. Phentermine is a stimulant that suppresses appetite, while topiramate is an anticonvulsant that’s thought to increase feelings of fullness and decrease food cravings.
  • Semaglutide (Wegovy®) – Wegovy® is a once-weekly injectable medication that contains semaglutide, a GLP-1 receptor agonist. Like other GLP-1 receptor agonists and GLP-1 medication, semaglutide weight loss injection helps regulate appetite and food intake, leading to weight loss.
  • Setmelanotide (Imcivree®) – Imcivree® is a medication used to treat rare genetic disorders associated with obesity and insatiable hunger, such as proopiomelanocortin (POMC) deficiency or leptin receptor (LEPR) deficiency. It works by targeting a receptor pathway in the brain, which regulates appetite and energy balance.
  • Zepbound (Tirzepatide®) – Tirzepatide® was recently approved for the treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes. It works by stimulating both the GIP and GLP-1 receptors, which regulate appetite, glucose metabolism, and body weight. [11]

How to Get a Weight Loss Prescription Online

With the expansion of telemedicine and telehealth, getting care is incredibly accessible. You can schedule a virtual visit with a healthcare provider, send and receive messages, and interact remotely, and begin your weight loss journey. [12, 13,14].

That said, obesity is a chronic health condition that can be treated and managed partly with most types of telehealth services [15]. You can also get prescriptions for medications through telehealth [13].

Prescription medications can be prescribed for weight loss in addition to lifestyle changes, support, and coaching. To get a weight loss prescription online or through a telehealth service, you must first meet virtually and consult a licensed healthcare provider. The healthcare provider must deem anti-obesity therapy appropriate before issuing you a prescription order.

Depending on whether the weight loss drug is considered a controlled substance, additional conditions may need to be met before a provider can issue you a prescription [14]. Additionally, each state has different regulations when it comes to telehealth and prescribing [14]. Your telehealth provider will need to follow the appropriate laws and regulations regarding getting a weight loss prescription online through a telehealth service.

Benefits of Telehealth for Obesity

There are many benefits to using a telehealth service to help you with your obesity and weight loss goals [15]. You can initiate your obesity management and treatment from the comfort of your home. In addition to the option of being prescribed an appropriate weight loss medication by a licensed healthcare provider, telehealth for obesity may include [15]:

  • Remote patient monitoring using a digital scale that sends automated results
  • Counseling with a registered dietician
  • At-home exercise plans
  • Mental health counseling and online support groups
  • Secure messaging to share food or exercise diaries and progress updates

How to Lose Weight Naturally

Losing weight can be very challenging because many factors affect your ability to lose weight. Factors such as genetics, health, and lifestyle can make it all that much harder to lose weight. However, you can consider weight loss options, such as weight loss programs, diet modifications, surgery, and medications. These weight loss options have their unique benefits and challenges.

Weight loss programs can be an attractive option. In a recent weight loss program study, researchers looked at the most popular weight loss programs among adults in the United States. [16]

After participants underwent a 12-month weight loss program with Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, or SlimFast, the participants achieved weight loss ranging from 2.6% to 4.9%. The monthly cost of these weight loss programs can vary from $10 to $1,000. These weight loss programs include low-calorie foods, physical activity, behavioral modifications, and community group support. [16]

Many dietary strategies focus on food modification, such as the low glycemic, Mediterranean, or paleo diet [17, 18]. A low glycemic diet plan focuses on an eating plan based on how foods affect your body’s blood glucose levels. A low glycemic diet can include green peas, leafy greens, fresh fruits, whole grains, nuts, and fish. A paleo diet focuses on food choices that prehistoric ancestors ate, such as meats, fish, and vegetables, and promotes avoiding dairy products and grains. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes plant-based foods and healthy fats. Foods usually include a blend of healthy whole grains, nuts, fish, leafy greens, and plenty of olive oil as the primary source of healthy fat. These diet modification strategies can help with weight loss, but maintaining weight loss over time can remain challenging [17, 18].

Of all the weight loss options you can elect, weight loss surgery is the most invasive choice but can be highly effective in reducing body weight. Before considering weight loss surgery, you should consult your healthcare provider to determine if weight loss surgery is a good fit for you. In the United States, three weight loss surgeries are often performed: gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and gastric band [18]. These weight loss surgeries allow you to lose weight but have their own risk associated with surgery and follow-up visits.

If weight loss management with dieting and exercise prove challenging, prescription weight loss medications can reduce body weight significantly, from 3% to 12% over a short period [9,10]. Your primary care provider can evaluate if you meet the clinical requirement for prescription weight loss medication [7].

Everlywell and Telehealth

Everlywell offers access to telehealth through Virtual Care Visits (including an option for weight management online), which connects you with a qualified healthcare provider based on your availability from the comfort of your home over a remote video call.

Weight management programs online: key points to know

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Sendra Yang, PharmD, MBA received her Doctor of Pharmacy and Master of Business Administration degrees from Wingate University School of Pharmacy. She is a skilled medical information professional with nearly 10 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, pharmacy education (including as an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin), and clinical practice. She has also been a medical writer and editor for consumer health and medical content. Sendra is passionate about translating complex medical concepts into simple and easy-to-understand information.
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