Healthline Special Report: Drugs that make you fat

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Lynnette Shuff is a happy person who loves to spend time with her dogs, but like so many people from St. Bernard Parish, Katrina left her home underwater. It was a sad time.  She says, "I was depressed I know I was. I couldn't get my head together with it." Her doctor put her on Cymbalta, an anti-depressant. According to Shuff, "Within about a year after I was taking it I gained 65 pounds."

Sam Rayborn also took Cymbalta.  He says, "During that time I gained about 45 or 50 pounds." Researchers aren't sure why some people gain weight on certain medications and others don't. Cymbalta can even have the opposite effect.

While drugs like Paxil and Zoloft are near the top of the list of weight gainers, often there's a weight-neutral medication. Generally it's a newer med like Prozac or Wellbutrin. They do the same thing, but without the extra weight.  If there isn't an alternative, Dr. Bradley Meek finds other ways to attack medication weight gain.  He says, "I often will counteract it with that will decrease appetite and help with their metabolism."

Meek is Sam Rayborn's doctor. After stopping his medicine, Rayborn lost weight with diet and exercise. Meditation replaced medicine.  Shuff saw the scales shift downward soon after she quit taking medication. "As fast as it came on, it came off again", she said.

Some do it, but getting off medicine without medical supervision can be dangerous. To make his point, Meek singles out another weight gainer.  "If somebody is on steroids, been on them a while and suddenly stopped taking them they can have a serious drop in their blood pressure, a decline in their adrenal gland function and that can be life threatening."

Steroids are a good example of weight gainer drugs without a weight neutral alternative. In those cases, advance planning can go a long way.   Pharmacists can be a great resource.  OLOL Pharmacy Director, Michael Muhundro explains.  "If you know the medication may cause a problem certainly diet and exercise are a way to address it on the front end instead of waiting until there's a problem"

Back to her normal weight, Shuff says these are happier times in many ways.  Whether its Lynette or anyone else, the moral to this story is simple.  If weight gain is a side effect of the medicine you're taking and it bothers you talk to your doctor about it there may be an alternative.

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