QUESTION: I’m considering getting weight-loss (bariatric) surgery. Will this have any effect on my medications?
ANSWER: There are many types of weight-loss surgery out there, all of which will help you lose weight in different ways. While each procedure is different, they all have a similar effect on your medications. Below I’ve listed some medication-related considerations to keep in mind.
Do you know if your medication is immediate release or extended/sustained release? Patients getting gastric bypass need to avoid taking extended/sustained release tablets. These tablets normally get absorbed in your body over an extended period of time. But, gastric bypass will reduce the total time that medicine will travel through your body. This means there is less time for extended/sustained release tablets to be absorbed. As such, it is important to take immediate release formulations due to their faster absorption.
Size does matter when it comes to medications and gastric bypass or banding. Depending on the type of surgery, the entryway into the stomach may be smaller compared to normal. With a small entryway, tablets may get stuck. To avoid this problem, you may be told that your medications need to crushed, dissolved in liquid, or take a liquid version of your medication.
After surgery, you have a higher risk of getting ulcers in your stomach or intestines. Ulcers cause stomach discomfort and bleeding. One class of medication that can cause ulcers is NSAIDs. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil®), or naproxen (Aleve®), among others, and should be avoided as a result. Be sure to watch out for over-the-counter combination products that may contain NSAID medicines. There are also other less common medications that can cause ulcers; your doctor or pharmacist can let you know if you are taking of these.
Just as your body will have less time to absorb medications, it also has less time to absorb nutrients. As a result, patients typically need supplements or vitamins for the rest of their life to remain healthy.
You will be losing weight which may have positive effects on other conditions you may have, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. This means, you may be able to reduce the doses of the medications you take.
If you have any further questions about how your surgery can affect your medications, be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist.