A drug used to treat something totally different is now helping some people lose weight.By Lindsay Ward

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – With active lives put on hold by the pandemic, many people stuck at home have put on unwanted weight, and doctors say it could take more than just diet and exercise to shed it.

The COVID crisis is certainly top of mind these days, but some conversations about the pandemic also touch on the “quarantine 15” or “pandemic pounds.”

“The situation is quite dire. On average, the patients who are coming to me who gained weight over COVID gained anywhere from 15 to 50 pounds,” endocrinologist and obesity specialist Dr. Minisha Sood said. “It takes three or four times the length that it took to put it on to get it off, and that’s with a lot of effort and pharmacologic support.”

It was that kind of support that ultimately helped Lenore Kramer, a patient of Sood’s, reach her goal weight.

“I was the only one that lost weight during the quarantine,” Kramer told CBS2’s Kristine Johnson.

Kramer says the tipping point for her was the right combination of a weight loss drug paired with a healthy diet.

“I’ve tried every medication that they had out on the market, and I’ve tried every, every diet that was there pretty much,” Kramer said.

At one time, Kramer was 100 pounds heavier than she is now. Sood prescribed a diabetes drug, liraglutide, more commonly known as Victoza.

For Kramer, it was life changing.

“It’s a miracle drug as an aid. It’s not a miracle drug that’s going to– you could just take it and you’re going to be thin,” she said.

Sood has seen success with other medications but says the key is to be specific to a patient’s needs.

“Some people need an appetite suppressant that’s not just a plain appetite suppressant, but that also suppresses cravings specifically,” she said.

She also adds that when it comes to weight gain and loss, it could be about more than just diet and exercise.

“Our gut bacteria can regulate our mood, our hunger hormones, and it’s actually been shown that people with obesity tended to have a different balance of gut bacteria,” Sood said.

Sood says she’ll ask hundreds of questions before she comes up with a weight loss plan.

“What happens when you wake up in the morning? What’s the first thing you do? Are you hungry by lunch or are you eating out of habit? What happens in the evening?” she said.

On top of improving your physical health, working with a doctor can mean additional emotional support, too.

“They’ve had things said to them that should never be spoken to another human being, and that’s just so sad, so they share that with me, and I try and support them, and I would encourage other doctors to do the same,” Sood said.

The drug Kramer was prescribed costs about $1,000 a month but was covered by insurance.

Before you start any weight loss plan, it’s always best to consult your doctor.