Pharmacotherapy of obesity: an update on the available medications and drugs under investigation

EClinicalMedicine. 2023 Mar 20:58:101882. doi: 10.1016/j.eclinm.2023.101882. eCollection 2023 Apr.


Obesity is an epidemic and a public health threat. Medical weight management remains one of the options for the treatment of excess weight and recent advances have revolutionized how we treat, and more importantly how we will be treating obesity in the near future. Metreleptin and Setmelanotide are currently indicated for rare obesity syndromes, and 5 other medications (orlistat, phentermine/topiramate, naltrexone/bupropion, liraglutide, semaglutide) are approved for non-syndromic obesity. Tirzepatide is about to be approved, and other drugs, with exciting novel mechanisms of action primarily based on incretins, are currently being investigated in different phases of clinical trials. The majority of these compounds act centrally, to reduce appetite and increase satiety, and secondarily, in the gastrointestinal tract to slow gastric emptying. All anti-obesity medications improve weight and metabolic parameters, with variable potency and effects depending on the specific drug. The currently available data do not support a reduction in hard cardiovascular outcomes, but it is almost certain that such data are forthcoming in the very near future. The choice of the anti-obesity medication needs to take into consideration the patient's clinical and biochemical profile, co-morbidities, and drug contra-indications, as well as expected degree of weight loss and improvements in cardio-renal and metabolic risk. It also remains to be seen whether precision medicine may offer personalized solutions to individuals with obesity, and whether it may represent the future of medical weight management along with the development of novel, very potent, anti-obesity medications currently in the pipeline.

Funding: None.

Keywords: Anti-obesity medications; Obesity; Weight management.

Publication types

  • Review