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HealthInfo Canterbury

Medications and surgery to help with weight loss

Medications to help you lose weight aren't a substitute for changing what you eat and doing more activity. They only lead to a relatively small weight loss and are usually not effective in the long term.

But sometimes your doctor may recommend that you try a medication along with a low-fat diet and increased physical activity.

One medication is called orlistat, also known as Xenical. However, orlistat does have some unpleasant side effects, such as soiling and diarrhoea if you eat high-fat meals. Other medications such as phentermine (also called Duromine) have been promoted, but they can have serious heart and blood pressure side effects.

Unfortunately, there are no wonder drugs that can make you lose weight. For most people, changing what you eat and doing more physical activity is the only way to lose weight.


Weight loss (bariatric) surgery may be an option if you are very obese. However, you will only be offered surgery if you have already tried losing weight in other ways and they haven't worked. In New Zealand access to obesity surgery in the public health system is very limited.

You may opt to have weight-loss surgery privately.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2017.


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Review key: HIMWA-28082