Over-the-Counter Weight Loss Supplements by Cynthia Jean, PharmD.

Are OTC weight loss supplements safe to take? What are my other options?

Weight loss is a common topic amongst many today.  When it comes to weight loss supplements, there are plenty of infomercials promoting the latest products.   Social media accounts are filled with promotional testimonials for the latest miracle solution to obesity.  With so many options to consider, it can be quite a confusing sea of information for patients to navigate through. This aggressive promotion of weight loss options is coupled with Western culture’s stigma on weight and beauty standards.  These components can push many to try fad diets to achieve unrealistic goals.   Before trying the latest fad diet or trying a new pill, it’s always best to discuss your health goals with a licensed medical professional. 


No matter what weight loss option your primary care provider recommends, the foundation for any obesity management plan is built on lifestyle changes. Dietary modifications along with regular cardiovascular exercise are both great measures to increase metabolism and promote natural weight loss. To help enhance the weight loss progression achieved by lifestyle changes, your doctor may prescribe medications.  There are many over the counter weight loss supplements on the market, however because they are not regulated by a government authority, their safety has not been proven. A few exceptions are drugs that were previously prescription only and now have both an over-the-counter and a prescription version.  There are various medications approved for weight loss, each option can be discussed with your doctor to see which would be best for you.  The 6 different categories / classes of drugs that can be used for obesity management include:

  • Gastrointestinal Lipase Inhibitor  (Xenical®, Alli®)
  • Serotonin 2C Receptor Agonist  (Belviq®)
  • Phentermine–Topiramate Combination (Qsymia®)
  • Naltrexone-Bupropion Combination (Contrave®)
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Antagonist (Saxenda®)
  • Noradrenergic Agents (Bontril®, Adipex-P®, Suprenza®, Tenuate®)


Along with the medications mentioned above, a final option for obesity management involves surgery and is used in very specific situations.  In order to start on your path to healthy weight loss management, reach out to your prescriber to discuss the plan that would be the best for you.

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