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Contrave is a weight loss treatment that can be prescribed by doctors in America. It has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for weight management, but is not yet available in the UK.

Below we have reviewed Contrave against our review criteria to help consumers make an informed decision.


Contrave Pros
  • The product contains ingredients which are clinically proven to aid weight loss
  • Contrave itself has undergone some clinical testing
  • Contrave is FDA-approved
Contrave Cons
  • The product is not yet available to purchase; it must be prescribed by a doctor
  • It is not yet available in the UK
  • May cause side effects for some groups of people

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Contrave Review

This product is slightly different to other weight loss pills as it is classed as a medicine rather than a supplement. It is claimed that Contrave can not only help obese adults to lose their weight, but also to keep it off in the long term. Having said this, there are some caveats as to how helpful it can be and it is recommended that it be used with a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity in order to be effective. In fact, the FDA has only approved its use in combination with these as opposed to a stand-alone aid.

Claimed weight loss benefits

The manufacturers of Contrave do not make it explicitly clear as to how the product actually tackles weight loss within the body. Given its ingredients, though, it may be inferred that the product aims to target 2 out of the 5 main weight loss properties. The first of these is appetite suppression whilst the second relates to an increased use of energy. This is likely to result in an increased metabolic rate. Although it is stated that a reduced calorie diet should be undertaken whilst using the product, the manufacturers do not provide this. However, they do make healthy eating resources available.

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How Contrave Works


There is a general consensus among scientists that Contrave works primarily as an appetite suppressant. This would explain why it is best used in combination with a diet and exercise; since the body is consuming fewer calories and using up more of them, individuals may feel hungrier as a result. But, with the addition of Contrave, this feeling of hunger could, in theory, be kept under control and users are claimed to be less likely to eat sugary foods to make up for it. Aside from this, however, there is little information available; it is suggested that the 2 ingredients in the product work synergistically to provide results.

Bupropion HCl

With regards to weight loss, this is the most important ingredient used in the Contrave product. It is said to be able to activate a specific set of neurons that are found in the hypothalamus region of the brain. Amongst other things, this is the part of the brain that has a direct impact on the emotional state of individuals and how hungry or thirsty they feel. These special cells are known as POMC neurons and have been suggested to have a negative connection to how much food an individual thinks they need to eat. This means, in theory at least, that the activation of POMC neurons results in a loss of appetite giving Contrave its power as an appetite suppressant. The neurons also play important roles in the balance of energy and how the body uses it up. Due to this, it is also thought that stimulating these nerve cells can result in an increased energy output. In practical terms this effectively means that by increasing the function of POMC neurons, the body is using up more energy, which potentially means that individuals will burn off more calories than they would have normally.

Naltrexone HCl

This ingredient is much less powerful in terms of weight loss in its own right but it is believed nevertheless to provide a useful and supportive effect, helping the Bupropion HCl to do its job. It too has an effect on the function of POMC neurons but instead of directly activating them, it is said to be effective in a more secondary way by suppressing the inhibition of them. This means that it allegedly helps to stop other compounds from blocking the POMC neurons so that their activation by the Bupropion will have a greater effect.

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Key Contrave Ingredients

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The manufacturers of Contrave state on their website that the product is made up of 2 pre-existing medicines: Bupropion HCl and Naltrexone HCl. Aside from this, though, there is also some information which confirms that the product does contain some inactive ingredients and an exhaustive list can be found on the website in the FAQ section. It may contain some fillers or binders but these, if there are in fact any, are not made explicit. The Food and Drug Administration has approved both ingredients for different reasons prior to having been approved for weight loss when being used simultaneously.

Bupropion HCl

Before being used for weight loss purposes, Bupropion HCl was most commonly thought of as a medicine to treat people with major forms of depression. In addition to this, it has also previously been used as an aid to help people to stop smoking due to the way in which it affects the brain and ultimately the balance of emotions. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration back in 2006 for use as a treatment for specifically seasonal depression. There are a few different brands of this medicine but the most common trade name for it is Zyban.

Naltrexone HCl

Naltrexone HCl is most often linked to the treatment of alcoholism and also opioid dependence. It can come in either a tablet or injectable form and it too has many different brand names. One of these, Vivitrol, was actually approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as a treatment for alcohol addiction. Other previous uses of the ingredient include the treatment of depersonalization disorder, multiple sclerosis (although in much lower doses), fibromyalgia and a number of behavioural addictions. It should be noted though that there are varying degrees of scientific evidence concerning the effectiveness of Naltrexone for these diseases.

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Clinical Studies

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A clinical study is a trial of a product carried out with the aim of testing both its safety and effectiveness. This is usually done by a group of impartial scientists. When results of these trials are published they are very useful in helping to disprove or validate claims made by manufacturers. Unlike most other weight loss products, the manufacturers of Contrave do explicitly state that the product has undergone some clinical testing and provides brief summaries of this on the website. As well as this, the ingredients used within it have also been the subject of some scientific studies.

Contrave itself is said by the manufacturers to have been involved in 2 different clinical trials. As well as being summarised on the website, they are also available to read in more detail on NCBI. Both of these assessed the average percent weight loss of the subjects involved and the percent of people with 5% or more weight loss. All subjects used were obese or overweight and had at least one medical problem: high blood pressure or high cholesterol. The first study lasted for 56 weeks and Contrave was administered in combination with a reduced calorie diet, behaviour counselling and increased physical activity. The average weight loss for those who took Contrave was 5.4% compared to only 1.3% in those who did not. Furthermore, the percentage of people who lost 5% or more was 42% in those who took the medicine and 17% in those who had the placebo.

In the second trial, the administration of Contrave was paired with a behavioural modification programme which included 28 group counselling sessions over the same duration of 56 weeks as well as a ‘rigorous’ diet and exercise regime. The results from this study were that the average weight loss of those not on Contrave was 4.9% whilst those who were taking it lost an average of 8.1%. In addition, 57% of the subjects who had been taking Contrave lost 5% or more of their weight, whilst only 43% of those taking the placebo experienced the same result.

Bupropion HCl

A study carried out in 2001 investigated the efficacy in terms of weight loss specifically and the tolerability of Bupropion using overweight and obese female subjects. The total number of subjects that took part in this trial was 50 and they all had a BMI of 28.0-52.6 kg/m2. The initial phase of the study lasted for the relatively short duration of 8 weeks in which time some of the subjects were randomly assigned to receive Bupropion, whilst the remainder were given a placebo. Doses of each started at 100mg per day and this was gradually increased throughout the trial to a maximum amount of 200mg twice per day. Whilst receiving treatment, all of the subjects were made to undergo a 1600kcal per day balanced diet. Those who responded to their treatment in the first 8 weeks continued for an additional 16 weeks making the whole trial duration a total of 24 weeks.

The results showed that the subjects who had been taking the Bupropion actually demonstrated a bigger mean weight loss during the first 8 weeks of the study than those who only received the placebo. In fact, 12 of the 18 subjects taking the drug lost over 5% of their baseline body weight compared to only 2 out of the 13 in the placebo group. 14 subjects who had been given the Bupropion went on to complete the whole 24 weeks of the study and achieved a weight loss of 12.9% +/- 5.6% of which around 70% was specifically body fat. In addition, the drug was well tolerated by all of the subjects.

Naltrexone HCl

One study that was undertaken in 1985 used moderately obese male subjects to test the connection between Naltrexone and their eating behaviour. 8 individuals were made to stay in a hospital metabolic unit for a total of 28 days while they were offered palatable foods by a ‘platter service’. Each subject was randomly assigned to receive equally divided doses of 100, 200 or 300mg of Naltrexone or an acetaminophen placebo. All treatments were given twice per day in the form of a tablet for 3 day periods each. Although the subjects who were given doses of the drug did show some decrease in daily calorific intake when compared to those taking the placebo, this was not statistically significant nor dose related. There was also no reliable change of basal metabolic rate as a result of being administered with the Naltrexone treatment. The researchers concluded on this basis that the Naltrexone was relatively ineffective in reducing food intake and also ineffective for inducing weight loss in obese humans.

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Contrave Side Effects

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Those who distribute Contrave are very aware of the potential side effects that it may cause and make these explicit on the website. It is stated that the most common side effects include those such as nausea, constipation, headache, diarrhoea, vomiting, dizziness, dry mouth and trouble sleeping, all of which should be fairly tolerable. In much rarer cases, though, more serious symptoms may occur including seizures, hypoglycaemia, liver damage, hepatitis, visual problems, manic episodes, increases in blood pressure, opioid overdose or sudden opioid withdrawal. This is, however, most likely to be the case where the user is already suffering from a pre-existing medical condition.

Bupropion HCl

There are also concerns over the same types of serious symptoms being related to Bupropion on its own. It is believed to be able to cause seizures, fainting and paranoia in less common instances but is more often associated with effects such as anxiety, trouble sleeping, shortness of breath, shaking, restlessness and aggressiveness. As well as this, this particular ingredient does also cause some interactions with other medications which may result in grave effects. There have been in excess of 600 drug interactions noted so far and over 300 of these have been classed as major so it is extremely important that users tell their doctor about any medication that they are currently taking or have previously taken so that an informed prescription can be made.

Naltrexone HCl

Side effects most commonly associated with this particular ingredient include unusual tiredness, nausea and/or vomiting, headaches, joint or muscle pain, anxiety, nervousness, trouble sleeping and abdominal or stomach cramp/pain which may vary in terms of intensity from mild to moderate. It can, however, also cause symptoms which although aren’t quite as common, they aren’t as rare as others. This type of effects may consist of chills, skin rash and sexual problems (specifically in males). There are 8 major drug interactions associated with Naltrexone and alcohol should not be consumed in combination with this drug since it is known be able to affect the functioning of the liver which would only be worsened by drinking.

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How to Use

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When using Contrave, it is emphasised that the tablets should be swallowed whole and that you must not cut, chew or crush them. No more than 2 tablets in the morning and 2 in the evening should be taken although users can spread these out, having 1 tablet 4 times at intervals instead of the 2 together twice a day. This is the absolute maximum, though, and no more than 2 of the tablets should be ingested at the same time. It is also said that you must not take Contrave with high fat meals as this will increase the risk of experiencing seizures and if you miss a dose, you should not attempt to make up for this by increasing your next intake.

The manufacturers also emphasise that you should not take Contrave if you are on antidepressants or if you drink a lot of alcohol, have high blood pressure, are dependent on medicines to help stop taking opioids, suffer from an eating disorder or have/had a condition which means you suffer from seizures.

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Who Makes It?

Both the name and product Contrave itself is a trademark of a company called Orexigen Therapeutics Inc. who are its manufacturers. It has been registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office. It is, however, also used under license by Takeda Pharmaceuticals America Inc. Orexigen Therapeutics Inc. have their own website, which does provide a small amount of information about how the company sees itself. They say that they are an American company with headquarters in California and that they are focused directly on the treatment of obesity. They also provide a page that gives a brief introduction to their senior management team and to their board of directors.

Having searched company complaints boards and forums, the company does not appear to have been involved in any allegations relating to fraudulent advertising or scam selling which is a good indication that it is reputable. What is particularly interesting about this company is that it also provides a list of collaborations that it is involved in which is useful as it means that people can check the genuineness of their products based on the company that has distributed them.

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Where to Buy Contrave


What makes Contrave a bit different from other weight loss products is the fact that it cannot be bought in any shops or any online retailers as it must be prescribed to you by a medical professional. This means that if there are places purporting to sell Contrave, under no circumstances should you attempt to buy it as it may not be safe. There are strict guidelines which regulate when the pills can be prescribed and this decision will be undertaken by a doctor who will monitor the use and increase or decrease dosage as and when it is necessary.

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Does Contrave Meet our Approved Criteria

Money-back-guarantee: Not applicable as Contrave is only available on prescription.

One-off payment: Not applicable as Contrave is only available on prescription.

Manufacturing Standard: The product is FDA-approved.

Accompanying Diet Plan: No, but it is stated that the user should follow a reduced-calorie diet whilst taking the product.

Ingredients and quantities disclosed: Yes, a full ingredients list is provided.

Company contact details readily available: Yes, this information is available on the official website.

Contrave does meet our ‘Approved’ criteria when obtained via a prescription as it has been approved by the FDA for medical use.

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Overall Verdict

Using some clinically proven ingredients and having been approved by the Food and Drug Administration specifically for weight loss, there is a very positive outlook in terms of Contrave’s likely effectiveness. Having said this, there is specific emphasis on the fact that this is not a ‘miracle pill’ and users will still have to undertake a lot of exercise and a healthy diet plan. There are also quite a few side effects associated with the pills but these should generally be tolerable and the fact that they are prescribed means that a doctor will be able to monitor this.

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