Weight loss injections: How to use, cost, benefits and more

Weight loss injections are an approved way to get your body weight back to an ideal level.

Written by
Lucinda Starr
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
June 17, 2022
7
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Struggling to shed those stubborn kilos? It might not be your willpower that's letting you down.

Weight loss is a lot more complicated than simply eating less and exercising more. In fact, your genetics and biology have a huge influence over how much weight you can gain or lose and your likelihood of keeping this weight off over the long term.

That's why you might be considering working with a doctor to explore other weight loss treatments. While they might sound intimidating, weight loss injections are an approved way to get your body weight back to an ideal level.

It's why we include this type of weight loss treatment in Pilot's Metabolic Reset Program, with tailored treatments designed to help you reset your metabolism, lose weight sustainably and keep it off across the long term.

Ready to find out how these medications work, the average weight loss you can expect and the potential side effects to be aware of? Let's run you through everything you need to know about these weight management strategies.

Can you treat weight loss with an injection?

In a nutshell, yes. While weight gain is most commonly managed with diet and exercise programs, stubborn weight gain might not be able to be fixed with lifestyle changes alone.

Typically, healthcare professionals will use your BMI (body mass index) to figure out whether you're in a healthy weight range or not. If you have a BMI of 25 to 30, you're considered clinically overweight, while a BMI of 30+ is classified as obese.

In order to be considered for a weight reduction medication, like an injection, you'd need to be:

  • Classified as overweight (and navigating a weight-related health condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure or problems breathing while you sleep).
  • Classified as obese.

Rather than simply following a reduced-calorie diet or increasing your daily exercise, a weight reduction medication works to regulate digestion, decrease your appetite and change the body and mind's approach to food.

How does the medication work?

If your body is programmed to resist weight loss by increasing hunger and slowing your metabolism, you'll find it really hard to lose weight by diet and exercise changes alone.

Instead, medication can be used to increase hormones in your gut that lower your appetite, increase your willpower and help you reach a healthier weight faster.

In Australia, a certain class of prescription drugs have been available since 2017 that can assist with weight loss. When combined with lifestyle changes (such as eating a healthy diet and establishing a new workout routine), you can expect to see immediate and lasting changes in your body weight.

How do you use weight loss injections?

After chatting with a healthcare professional, you may be advised to try injections as a way to help you lose weight.

In most cases, these injections will be prescribed alongside other strategies (such as making long-term changes to your diet and adding more physical activity into your day). When used as part of a holistic weight management program, these injections can be a great way to kick start your initial body weight loss.

Plus, by making a range of lifestyle changes you can combat other health issues you might also be navigating (such as lower your blood pressure or cholesterol levels).

How do you administer your injection?

Before you begin taking this weight loss medication, your doctor will run you through how to administer it. Make sure you understand their instructions and ask how to use them before you begin your treatment.

In a nutshell, this treatment involves a self-administered injection that happens once per day for the duration of your treatment. Each pre-filled pen is packed with your medication as well as single-use needles that need to be disposed of after use.

This injection needs to be placed under the skin (not into a vein or muscle). Usually, your doctor will recommend injecting this treatment into your waist, the front of your thigh or your upper arm.

What is the name of the weight loss medication?

Unfortunately, Australia's TGA (therapeutic goods administration) regulations prevent us from being able to share the exact name of this treatment.

What we can say is that this medication was approved for use back in 2017. While it was originally prescribed to patients navigating diabetes, it has since been found to regulate your metabolism and hunger hormones.

It's a safe and effective treatment that GPs across Australia happily prescribe to patients wanting to lose weight (along with a range of lifestyle changes).

To find out more about the specific name of this weight loss medication, you'll need to proceed to the doctor's consult stage on Pilot (and be approved by a doctor for this treatment).

How much weight can you lose using a weight loss injection medication?

As you'd expect, it's difficult to make an accurate prediction of exactly how much weight you might lose. That's because you're starting with a unique set of factors, such as your age, current weight, metabolism rate and potentially navigating a range of other health conditions, too.

What we do know is that the medication used in these injections has helped our patients at Pilot to drop several kilos of body weight within the first few weeks.

There are two recent studies that give us more specific insights into the rate of weight loss you might expect.

In a 2017 study, one-quarter of patients lost more than 10 per cent of their body weight after five months of this weight loss treatment. At 20 weeks, more than half (76.1 per cent) of this control group had lost more than five per cent of body weight and 28.3 per cent had lost more than 10 per cent.

In a most recent 2020 study from the International Journal of Obesity, patients had lost 12.1 per cent after a year of using this treatment. The key to their success was introducing a range of behavioural changes (nearly twice as much versus behavioural changes alone).

How long does it take for the medication to work?

As we mentioned, this kind of weight loss treatment works by suppressing appetite. It's a much less invasive approach to other weight-loss strategies, such as surgical weight loss or bariatric surgery.

But you might be wondering: when will you start seeing results?

Most of our patients here at Pilot start to see weight loss within the first few weeks of treatment. However, if you're navigating any weight-related medical problems or chronic disease, you may need to stay on the treatment for longer to see results.

A quick chat with your doctor will be able to give you more confidence in terms of what results you can expect, based on your body and health needs.

How much does it cost?

Pilot's Metabolic Reset program includes not just the medication but also doctor support and ongoing behavioural coaching. It works out to be $395 per month, or about $13 per day.

Many of our patients tell us they end up spending less on food each day as the medication reduces their appetite. That makes this program very affordable, especially when you compare this to an Uber Eats order or lunch at a cafe.

Who can use weight loss injections?

To be eligible for this kind of treatment, you'll need to chat with your doctor (or start an online consult with Pilot). Your BMI has a big impact on whether this treatment is suitable for you or not.

In a nutshell, anyone who is classified as clinically obese should be able to access these injections. If you're overweight and navigating weight-related medical problems, you might also be approved for this program.

Plus, your doctor will make sure to find out if you have any other medical conditions or are taking any other medicines that might impact the effectiveness of this treatment.

How long should you use the injections?

Your doctor will monitor your progress closely over the first 12 weeks of your treatment. If you've experienced at least a five per cent loss of your initial weight, you'll be able to continue treatment.

Typically, your treatment will last anywhere from nine to 12 months.

What diet should you follow while on this medication?

Your doctor will help you create a diet plan to support your weight loss when using this treatment. Being your appetite is lowered, you might notice you're only craving smaller portions as you're feeling fuller, sooner.

In general terms, you can expect to be prescribed a healthy balanced diet that is low in bad fats and sugars and rich in nourishing grains, fruits and vegetables

What are the side effects?

While this treatment is completely safe, there are some common side effects you might encounter. The most common are nausea, as well as vomiting, diarrhoea and constipation.

Plus, there are less common side effects and more to watch out for including:

  • Hypoglycaemia (if you're also taking diabetes medications)
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Thyroid problems
  • Kidney impairment
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

Make sure to speak with your doctor and explain your medical history thoroughly to ensure this treatment is right for you.

When it comes to losing weight, seeking medical health through the form of a weight-loss injection is a safe and effective approach. This treatment can help you reset your metabolism, reach a healthy weight and maintain it over the long term.

Ready to find out if you're eligible? Chat with the team at Pilot today.

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