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Along with physical activity and healthy eating, some children may benefit from medications designed to help with weight management.

Obesity can increase a child’s risk for chronic and serious medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, orthopedic problems, and liver disease. Health experts don’t know why some people are more prone to obesity than others, but it’s believed to be caused by a combination of environment, genetics, nutrition, and energy expenditure.

Exercise, healthy nutrition, and counseling are usually prescribed treatments, but some children might also benefit from medication as a supplement to those measures. The eMPoWeR (Medical and Pharmacologic Weight Regulation) Program at Boston Children’s can help incorporate medication into your child’s treatment plan and work with your family to improve their health and quality of life.

The anti-obesity medications we prescribe are created to help those with a body mass index (BMI) in the >95th percentile. We will walk your family through how these medications work, what they aim to achieve, and whether they might cause side effects. Medications include:

  • Semaglutide and liraglutide. These act like the hormone GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide), which tells your brain and stomach that you’ve eaten enough. The drugs act like the hormone by slowing the emptying of the stomach to help your child feel less hungry after meals.
  • Tirzepatide. This medication combines the effects of GLP-1 and another hormone, GIP (gastric inhibitory peptide), to help patients feel less hungry by working in the brain and by slowing stomach emptying.
  • Phentermine. This medication also stimulates areas of the brain that register feelings of fullness in the brain. This will help reduce hunger and reduce body weight.
  • Topiramate. This also works in the brain to help reduce appetite and control body weight. It is often used in combination with phentermine.

We’ll determine which medication might work best for your child, prepare a treatment plan, and monitor how they respond. We also work closely with our colleagues in Boston Children’s Optimal Wellness for Life (OWL) Program and the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center to ensure your child’s medication is in balance with their exercise and diet.

Medication is not the only answer to weight management, but it can be an effective part of an overall plan. We’re here to help your family achieve the goals that can improve your child’s well-being.

Watch: Is weight loss medication an option for my teen?

In this episode of the Answers Parentcast, host Dr. Jennifer Arnold explores weight loss medications for children with Dr. Margaret Stefater Richards, a physician and researcher at Boston Children's Hospital's Division of Endocrinology.