Weight loss tablets are oral medications that you take to help you lose weight as part of a combined approach with healthy eating, exercise and medication. Two types of weight loss pills are approved for use in the UK, which can help you lose weight in different ways. Orlistat is a pill that changes how your body absorbs fat, while pills like Mysimba help you lose weight by suppressing your appetite.
We offer a range of different weight loss medications that can help you lose weight when taken in combination with exercise and a healthy diet. These medications have all been approved for use in the UK by the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
You can place an order online with ease, and we'll deliver your treatment to your door if it's suitable for you. If you have any questions about weight loss treatment or healthcare, you can message one of our doctors for free through your patient account.
Weight loss tablets
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Weight Loss Treatment
Also known as diet pills, slimming pills or fat-burning tablets, weight loss tablets are oral pills that help people lose weight. These pills are approved for use in the UK and can be prescribed by a doctor or supplied over the counter by a regulated pharmacist.
Weight loss tablets should not be the first thing you do to lose weight. You should only take weight loss tablets once you have started a balanced diet and exercise programme, and you should continue with this while you take the weight loss tablets and after you stop taking them.
There are two weight loss tablets that have been proven to work and approved for use in the UK by the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). These are Orlistat, which is also available under two brand names, Xenical (120 mg capsules) and Alli (60 mg capsules), and Mysimba.
You need a prescription for the higher dose version of Orlistat (called Xenical) and Mysimba, but the lower dose version of Orlistat (called Alli) is available over the counter. Over the counter means that you do not need a prescription, but you need approval from a pharmacist before buying the medication.
Weight loss tablets are for obese people who have already made a significant effort to change their lifestyle to lose weight. When it comes to taking weight loss tablets, obesity is defined as:
- Having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above.
- Having a BMI of 27 or above and other weight-related conditions such as high blood pressure or Type-2 diabetes. Although this BMI does not mean you are technically obese, you can take weight loss tablets if you meet these criteria.
Healthy or underweight people should not take weight loss tablets as they can be harmful.
Weight loss supplements are “natural” or “herbal” treatments available as pills, powders, or liquid form that claim to aid weight loss. Examples include alkaline water tablets, plant extract tablets such as raspberry ketones or garcinia cambogia, and caffeine tablets.
Supplements are different from medically-approved weight loss tablets as a doctor does not prescribe them. Dietary supplements are regulated by the MHRA and display the Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) logo if they have been approved for sale.
You must only take supplements that have been regulated by the MHRA and display the THR logo. At best, unregulated weight loss supplements may be ineffective and a waste of your money. At worst, they may be unsafe, cause dangerous side effects and make you very ill.
You can buy prescription weight loss tablets online from a registered and reputable online doctor, such as Zava, in a few simple steps:
- Fill in a brief questionnaire on our site.
- Our doctors will then review your answers and make sure it is safe to prescribe you the weight loss tablets.
- The tablets are then dispatched by our pharmacy and delivered by Royal Mail.
- You can message our doctors for free advice at any time.
You can buy a lower dose version of prescription-only weight loss tablets over the counter with advice from a pharmacist. The only weight loss tablet approved for sale over the counter is Alli, a 60 mg capsule of the generic medicine Orlistat.
Different weight loss tablets work in different ways. Orlistat works by changing how your body digests fat. Normally when you eat fatty foods, the fat is absorbed into your body, but less of this fat is absorbed when you take weight loss tablets. Instead, the fat is passed through your body as waste. Pills like Mysimba help you lose weight by suppressing your appetite, so you’re less likely to snack or eat too much.
You should take weight loss tablets as directed by your GP or pharmacist. With Orlistat, you take one tablet with water immediately before, during or up to 1 hour after each main meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner). You do this for 12 weeks before reviewing your treatment with a doctor.
With Mysimba, the initial dose is generally one tablet once a day in the morning. However, this will change as you take it:
- Week 1: One tablet once a day in the morning
- Week 2: Two tablets every day, one in the morning and one in the evening
- Week 3: Three tablets every day, two in the morning and one in the evening
- Week 4 and onward: Four tablets every day, two in the morning and two in the evening
The maximum recommended daily dose of Mysimba is two tablets taken twice a day.
After 16 weeks, your doctor will evaluate whether you should continue taking Mysimba.
Weight loss tablets start working in 1 to 2 days, but it can take up to 2 weeks to see results. You take weight loss tablets for 12-16 weeks depending on the tablet you're taking. Your GP or pharmacist then assess if they are working, determining whether you should continue taking them.
Only prescription weight loss tablets like Orlistat and Mysimba are proven to work. They start working within 1-2 days of taking them, but it can take up to 2 weeks to see results.
As with all medication, there can be side effects. Common side effects from taking Orlistat include:
- Urinating or having bowel movements more frequently
- An oily discharge or fatty stools
- Stomach pain or wind
Common side effects from taking Mysimba include:
- Dizziness, feeling of dizziness or “spinning” (vertigo)
- Feeling shaky (tremor)
- Difficulty in sleeping (make sure you do not take Mysimba near to bedtime)
- Changes in the taste of food (dysgeusia), dry mouth
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling of tiredness (fatigue) and sleepiness, drowsiness or lack of energy (lethargy)
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Hot flush
- Increased blood pressure (sometimes severe)
- Pain in the upper part of the abdomen
- Pain in the abdomen
- Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)
- Rash, itching (pruritus)
- Hair loss (alopecia)
More information is available in your patient Information Leaflet.
Weight loss tablets are safe to take if prescribed by a regulated doctor or recommended over the counter by a regulated pharmacist. As with any medication, you must follow the instructions about how to take the tablets and talk to your GP if you have any concerns.
If you are worried about pills you have bought online, you can use the UK Government’s Fake Meds Campaign to learn more.
Sustained and healthy weight loss is primarily achieved through a combination of diet and exercise.
Dieting involves reducing your calorie intake, and exercise involves using physical activity to burn energy. While dieting will help you lose weight, exercise will help you maintain a healthy weight in the long run.
The NHS's Live Well site has advice and tools to help you introduce healthy eating and exercise to your lifestyle.
There are many different diets available to help you lose weight. The UK Government advises that you reduce your energy intake by 600 calories per day if you want to lose weight at a safe and sustainable rate. The easiest way to do this is to swap high-energy food such as sugary drinks and processed food for healthier choices such as fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrain bread and pasta, and a balanced selection of protein and dairy foods.
The UK Government does not recommend diets that result in rapid weight loss and encourage cutting out whole food groups or not eating for sustained periods as these can be dangerous for your health.
Aerobic exercise burns fat which helps you lose weight if you also control the calories you are taking in. Making exercise a regular part of your lifestyle helps maintain a healthy weight.
The UK Government recommends that adults undertake activity that increases your heart and breathing rate for 150 minutes each week. This is called ‘moderate-intensity’ activity and can include brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming and dancing.
If you are obese or want to avoid regaining the weight you have previously lost, you may need to exercise longer and more frequently. Your GP can advise you on this.
It is also recommended to build muscle strength as this improves your resting metabolism and keeps you burning fat even when you are not doing aerobic exercise. Muscle-strengthening activities include weight-lifting, yoga, pilates, heavy gardening and lifting and carrying children.
Weight-loss surgery is known as bariatric surgery and can treat severely obese people who meet a particular set of criteria.
Dr Babak Ashrafi Clinical Lead for Service Expansion
Babak studied medicine at King’s College London and graduated in 2003, having also gained a bachelor’s degree in Physiology during his time there. He completed his general practice (GP) training in East London, where he worked for a number of years as a partner at a large inner-city GP practice. He completed the Royal College of GPs membership exam in 2007.Meet our doctors
Last reviewed: 11 Jun 2019