Contrave Weight Loss Medication

Tape measure in prescription bottle
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If you need to lose weight and you're looking for a prescription weight loss medication, you have several choices. Your doctor may talk to you about BelviqQsymiaSaxena or another medication called Contrave (bupropion and naltrexone). Here's what you need to know about Contrave, including costs, weight loss results, and side effects.

What Is Contrave?

Contrave is a combination of two different medications: naltrexone and bupropion hydrochloride.

The weight loss drug affects your central nervous system to increase the number of calories you burn (energy expenditure) and reduce your appetite. The extended-release tablets are prescribed along with a reduced-calorie diet and exercise program to help certain people lose weight.

So how do you know if you can take a Contrave diet pill? The drug is approved to help obese adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater or overweight adults with a BMI of 27 or greater who have at least one weight-related condition such as high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure.

Certain patients should not take Contrave. Patients who have uncontrolled high blood pressure should not take this diet pill. The medication should also not be used if you have a seizure disorder, anorexia nervosa or bulimia, if you are undergoing abrupt discontinuation of alcohol, or certain drugs, if you take other medications that contain bupropion ( such as Wellbutrin and Aplenzin), or if you use opioids on a regular basis.

You should also not take Contrave during or within 14 days of taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI).

Contrave Weight Loss Results

According to clinical studies, Contrave can help to promote weight loss, but the numbers aren't staggering. In a study of patients without diabetes, 42 percent of patients lost at least five percent of their body weight after a year.

That means that most people taking Contrave did not meet the five percent goal.

In another study, 57 percent of patients who took Contrave lost at least five percent of their body weight. But 42 percent of the study participants dropped out of the program before the research was completed. Most dropped out within the first few weeks. 

In patients with diabetes, the numbers are modest as well. Thirty-six percent of patients lost at least five percent of their body weight after a year. In both studies (patients with and without diabetes) the group taking placebo lost significantly less weight than the patients taking Contrave. All patients in both groups received lifestyle modification that consisted of a low-calorie diet and regular exercise.

Contrave Side Effects

The most common side effects reported by patients taking Contrave include nausea, constipation, headache, vomiting, dizziness, insomnia, dry mouth, and diarrhea. In addition, the box contains a warning that users should be cautious about an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Patients who have eating disorders or seizure disorders should not take Contrave.

If you consider taking Contrave, be sure to tell your health care provider about every medication you are taking as there are some dangerous conditions that may occur when certain medicines interact with Contrave.

Once you've started taking the weight loss pill, talk to your doctor about any unusual symptoms. After 12 weeks if you have not lost at least 5 percent of your body weight, your doctor will probably discontinue your treatment with the drug as it is not likely that Contrave will work for you.

Contrave Cost

The number of Contrave diet pills that you take each day will determine the overall cost. When you first start taking Contrave, you may take just one pill per day. After four weeks, the dose may increase to four pills per day, two in the morning and two at night.  

You'll also find that the cost of Contrave varies from about $55/month to over $200/month depending on dose, location, and insurance coverage.

The drugmaker offers a discount coupon plan for patients whose insurance does not cover Contrave or who do not have insurance coverage. With the savings card, you may be able to pay no more than $3 a day for a monthly prescription.

A Word From Verywell

Weight loss can be challenging. A diet pill sounds like the perfect solution. But there is no weight loss medication that works perfectly for everyone. Talk to your doctor about your diet and exercise experience and your medical history to determine if Contrave might work for you. If you decide to give this medication a try, stay in contact with your health care team if you notice unusual signs or symptoms and maintain your strong commitment to nutritious eating and regular physical activity to make sure that your body stays strong and healthy as you slim down. 

Sources:

Ioannides-Demos LL, Piccenna L, McNeil JJ. Pharmacotherapies for Obesity: Past, Current,  and Future TherapiesJournal of Obesity. 2011;2011:179674. doi:10.1155/2011/179674.

Matthew M. Sherman, Jose A. Rey. "Naltrexone/Bupropion ER (Contrave): Newly Approved Treatment Option For Chronic Weight Management In Obese Adults". Pharmacy and Therapeutics  2016 Mar; 41(3): 164, 166-168, 171-172.

Padwal R. " Contrave, a Bupropion and Naltrexone Combination Therapy for the Potential Treatment of Obesity." Current Opinion in Investigational Drugs 2009 October.

Tehane Ornellas, Benjamin Chavez. "Naltrexone SR/Bupropion SR (Contrave) A New Approach to Weight Loss in Obese Adults.Pharmacy and Therapeutics May 2011.

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