Phentermine for Weight Loss in 2020

Posted: Nov 12 in Weight Loss Medication by

Phentermine was originally approved by the FDA for weight loss in the 1950’s. In those days, few people had obesity, and obesity was thought to be the result of simple dietary indiscretion. Phentermine in those days was studied and approved only for a short duration of use (3 months).

Phentermine in 2020

Wow have times changed since then. Here we are 60 years later, and we’ve seen obesity rates skyrocket – from less than 10% of the population living with obesity to now more than 40% of our population. Obesity is now contributing to 40% of cancers diagnosed in America, shortening lifespan of affected individuals by as much as 8 years, and resulting in over 320,000 deaths per year.

Obesity is not caused by laziness or lack of willpower

We now understand that obesity is far more complex than how much an individual moves or how much they eat. In fact, it is thought to largely be the result of genetics and environment. We have learned that short-term treatments don’t work, and to be effective, any treatment whether it is a medication or a lifestyle change needs to be utilized chronically.

Qsymia (Phentermine/Topiramate ER)

Back in 2012, a new version of Phentermine sold under the brand name Qsymia was approved by the FDA for chronic use, with properly done safety and efficacy studies.

The use of medication remains the exception rather than the rule in the treatment of obesity

Nevertheless, it is still rare for a person living with obesity to be offered medication for treatment. Current estimates are that only 1.4% of people with obesity are offered medication, which has been shown to double to triple the odds of successfully losing weight and keeping it off. This is in contrast to diseases like type II diabetes, where an estimated 86% of people are offered FDA approved medications.

Obesity Bias and Stigma

And, there continues to be significant stigma against the treatment of obesity in America. Currently, some states don’t allow off-label prescribing of anti-obesity medications like phentermine (so, for example, they would allow chronic prescribing of Qsymia, but would not allow the much less expensive generic phentermine to be prescribed at the same dose that is in Qsymia for over 3 months). And, Medicare still will not allow payment for any weight loss medication like phentermine due to old and out of date language classifying this as a cosmetic condition – completely out of touch with current scientific thinking.

Phentermine safe and effective for the treatment of obesity

Studies continue to show Phentermine is safe and effective for the treatment of obesity. One study just published in the journal Obesity showed the combination of Phentermine / Topiramate (same ingredients that are in Qsymia) to significantly improve weight loss even after bariatric surgical procedures.

Another study looked at people prescribed Phentermine for the short, intermediate or long term. The study demonstrated that long-term phentermine was associated with a sustained 10.1% weight loss on average. On the other hand, if people took phentermine short-term and then stopped, the weight was regained. The authors noted that there were no additional side effects seen with long-term use compared with what was seen with short-term use.

While Phentermine is not the only medication being used for weight loss, it is the most common. Side effects can include dry mouth, insomnia, elevations in blood pressure or heart rate, etc. It shouldn’t be taken if one has a history of heart disease (or equivalent), hyperthyroidism, uncontrolled hypertension, pregnancy, breast feeding, or certain other situations. It is approved for adults with a BMI of 30 or more (27 or more with a weight-related medical problem) as an adjunct to a reduced calorie diet and physical activity program.

Learn more about Phentermine

If you have struggled to lose weight and keep it off, consider setting up a consultation with a provider at CNC to discuss the different safe and effective FDA approved prescription anti-obesity medications like Phentermine and see if one would be a good fit for you.


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