Treatment of obesity in children and adolescents

J Pediatr Pharmacol Ther. 2012 Jan;17(1):45-57. doi: 10.5863/1551-6776-17.1.45.


The prevalence of childhood and adolescent obesity continues to rise in the United States (US). Immediate health consequences are being observed, and long-term risks are mounting within the pediatric population, secondary to obesity. The hallmark of prevention and treatment of obesity in children and adolescents includes lifestyle modification (i.e., dietary modification, increased physical activity, and behavioral modifications). However, when intensive lifestyle modification is insufficient to reach weight loss goals, adjunctive pharmacotherapy is recommended. Among the group of weight-loss medications, orlistat is the only US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved prescription drug for the treatment of overweight and obese adolescents. Other medications, including metformin, need larger studies to establish their role in treatment. No single approach to management of pediatric obesity is the answer, given the complexity of the disorder and the many reasons for failure. Evidence of weight loss medications in addition to lifestyle modification supports short-term efficacy for treatment of obese children and adolescents, although long-term results remain unclear.

Keywords: adolescents; children; obese; obesity; overweight.