Hello folks! Well, I find myself in a similar, albeit less lengthy, time frame of writing an update. I am truly awful at making time to write. I received quite a few new followers after my “Ready to Lose It” post so THANK YOU for your support and I hope you enjoy reading my nonsense!
I have been wanting to update all of you on my Torch progress. Since my last writing, Torch rebranded itself to Found and I am no longer a part of this program. As those of you that read my previous post already know, I signed up for the Found program after struggling to lose the last 50 lbs of baby weight I’ve been carrying around. I was initially prescribed a drug called Zonisamide (brand name is Zonegran). This medication belongs to a drug category called “anticonvulsants.” It is used to treat epilepsy as a way of reducing seizures and seizure-like activity in the brain. It has also widely been prescribed to treat people that suffer with migraines. During use of this drug, many reported a loss of appetite and have noticed that they “forgot to eat.” For these reasons, Zonisamide has been prescribed off-label for weight loss. Needless to say, I was hesitant to put something of this caliber into my body. After much internal back and forth, as well as chatting in an online group of individuals that took this medication for weight loss, I decided to give it a try.
Let’s get a bit more personal…
To back up a little, I take exactly ONE pharmaceutical medication and that is a drug called Mesalamine. It is a pill used to treat inflammation and it has helped immensely at keeping my Crohn’s Disease in remission. I’ve had many issues with pharmaceutical medications that have led me to be very cautious about what I put in my body — more on that another day. For now, let’s get back to Found and my use of Zonisamide…
Everything comes with a price…
First of all, you have to sign up for a specified amount of time. They have 3-month plans for $99 per month and 6 month plans for $89 per month (discounted to $45 per month). If you sign up for the reduced-price 6 month plan, the only way to pay for this plan is by using “Affirm.” For anyone unfamiliar with Affirm, it acts as a virtual line of credit with 0% interest. With that option, you’re paying $45 per month BUT your medication is billed separately as it cannot be financed through Affirm. Keep that in mind as it’s not just a flat $45 per month. Also, you’re stuck paying for the program for those 6-months unless you cancel within 30-days. With the 3 month option, you are still required to pay for the program for those 3 months at $99 per month, unless you cancel within the first 30-days. However, that $99 per month includes your prescriptions. I signed up for the 3 month option with the intent to evaluate it in the first 30-days and cancel if I didn’t think the program was right for me.
All correspondence with doctors is done via online messaging using the Found Portal. When you have a question or are experiencing a non-life-threatening side effect, you have to send a message through their portal and wait for a response from your doctor. Also, there is about a 2 day lag between when the doctor prescribes or changes your prescription and when it actually gets filled and shipped to you. This means that if your medication is not working for you and you request to be changed to something else, it’s a full week (sometimes longer) before you have that new medication in hand. That may not seem like a long time, but when you consider that Found only gives you a whopping 30-days to evaluate their program, you’re really limited for time and have limited time to test out medications. It’s also frustrating having to explain yourself electronically in a message instead of just getting on the phone and spending 5-10 minutes going over how you’re feeling or what you’re experiencing. In general, I just found that this mode of communication left me riddled with anxiety and a little aggravation. As someone that doesn’t take many medications, I was feeling like I was alone in this and it felt like I wasn’t really being monitored by a physician.
A “TASTE” of Zonisamide…
I started on a Monday by taking Zonisamide at 100mg one time per day. The dose was set to increase each week by 100mg until I reached 300mg. Per the instructions, I took the medication in the evening (around 6:00 pm) as it has been known to make people groggy and sleepy. Well, let me tell you, this medication had me absolutely WIRED. I was up all night and my thoughts were racing. It was unlike any insomnia I have ever experienced. Initially I dismissed this as being a psychosomatic effect — like my anxiety about taking medication was dictating how my body responded. It wasn’t until the next day when I switched to taking the medication around 1:00 pm that I realized this was just the way my body was going to respond to this medication. Still, it was fine with me. I had a ton of energy and was still able to be very productive at work. Also, I noticed the appetite suppressing effects of the Zonisamide immediately. It really did work to stop me from snacking. Fast forward about 4 days to that Thursday. I had an annoying, swollen taste bud on the tip of my tongue. Although such an occurrence is not common for me, it really didn’t spark any reason for concern. I thought maybe I had burned my tongue on dinner the night before. However, as the days progressed, the taste bud continued to get worse and I noticed more and more of my taste buds were starting to swell. Deep down I knew it was the Zonisamide. One of the dangerous side effects of the medication is swelling of the tongue, but this was different. This was just individual taste buds that were becoming inflamed. So I went to where everyone goes… Google. I looked up what a swollen tongue would look like and that was definitely much more nefarious-looking than what I had going on. I reached out to the Found doctors AND even called the pharmacy number on the label of the medication bottle that was sent to me. Both of them told me that this was not a side effect that they had ever heard of from this medication. The doctor went so far as to specify that he prescribes this to hundreds of patients and has never heard of this occurring. He offered to switch me to a different medication, but I decided to try it for a few more days. I continued the Zonisamide over the weekend in hope that this strange tongue issue would resolve, but it did not. I took a trip to Urgent Care that Monday and met with an unbelievably friendly and helpful Physician’s Assistant. He was intrigued by the Found program when I told him about it and how I was taking an off-label drug for weight loss. He thought my tongue looked normal minus this strange taste bud issue I had. He agreed that the swelling did not look like what an allergic reaction resulting in a swollen tongue would look like. He thought it was likely “transient lingual papillitis” which, SPOILER ALERT, is just a fancy term for describing random, swollen taste buds resulting from unknown or varying reasons. Still, he was very thorough and swabbed my tongue to see if something else was going on. I stayed on the Zonisamide for another 3 days and even attempted the increase to the 200 mg that Wednesday, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. It was becoming difficult to speak or focus because my tongue was just so uncomfortable. That Thursday, I discontinued the medication and reached out to Found to see about changing me to something else. Within 24 hours of stopping the Zonisamide I noticed a drastic reduction in my swollen taste buds and my tongue was completely back to normal by the end of the weekend. It wasn’t until weeks (yes, WEEKS) later that the tongue swab came back and I found out that I had THRUSH on my tongue. By the time I got this news, I was completely back to normal and was no longer taking Zonisamide.
The Found doctor suggested putting me on Metformin. I agreed and two days later, the medication was shipped. In the meantime, I did some research and spoke with other members in the Found Facebook group that took this medication. Metformin is a drug prescribed for Type 2 Diabetes. It does have other off-label uses including weight reduction and treatment of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Some of the most common side effects reported by people using it are nausea, vomiting, gas, bloating, and diarrhea among others. Well, that was enough for me to bow out of that one. My Crohn’s disease was finally in remission and I really didn’t want to take a chance of causing a flare up or risk causing damage that would require me to use immune suppressing drugs (during a PANDEMIC no less). There is some evidence to show that Metformin actually helps individuals with Crohn’s disease, but that alleged evidence wasn’t enough for me. I never even took one pill. Instead I reached out to the Found physicians again and asked to try Topiramate (brand name is Topamax). I had seen countless people in the Found Facebook group mentioning that they had great results with Topiramate. Plus, I had taken it many, many years ago when I was having some issues with migraines (I don’t have that issue anymore, but again, that’s for another day). Like Zonisamide, Topiramate belongs in the anticonvulsant category and is commonly used for epilepsy as well as nerve pain and migraine prophylaxis. Many people taking it did notice a drop in their appetite so it has been used off-label for weight loss. The doctor agreed and about 7 days later, I had the medication. I began taking it and guess what? On day 2, I already started to feel the taste buds on my tongue swelling. So that was that. I discontinued the topiramate and promptly cancelled my Found membership one day before the 30-day period.
Put me in, Coach!
The Found program also gives you a weight loss “Coach.” I’m not really going to go too much into this because it’s really a matter of preference for each individual. Personally, I found this piece of the program to be completely and utterly useless. Found Coaches text you daily with generic, pre-written information relating to healthy eating and exercise habits. All of what was sent to me was common sense information that I already knew and already practiced in my everyday life. Found boasts that you can respond to these messages and ask your Coach questions as you need to. I did this a couple times and it wasn’t an immediate response. Like messaging the doctors, it would take hours, sometimes an entire day to get a response. Furthermore, every question I asked was relating to medication or side effects so I was redirected to send a message through the Found portal to a doctor. The coach is supposed to be motivational, but their information seemed cookie-cutter and basic to me. Still, there are plenty of others online that LOVED having this coach and found their information very useful.To each their own.
So what’s the verdict?
All in all, I think the Found program is decent, but it just wasn’t the program for me. I have come to realize that although I am not typically an anxious person, I am definitely nervous about what I put into my body. With that being said, I am IN NO WAY opposed to taking weight loss medication at all. But when it comes to taking medication, I was really looking for a more personal approach and follow up. The real issue with Found for me was the way the doctor’s seemed completely inaccessible. Although they did respond in a relatively timely manner, the lack of actual contact is what bothered me. If the program included phone call conversations with a physician, I probably would have felt more comfortable. Being able to voice all my concerns with a doctor and have all my questions answered at once in an actual dialogue would have been better for me personally.
When it comes to the price, I really don’t have much to complain about. When you think about paying an office visit co-payment and the co-payment (or full price) for your medication, Found really isn’t THAT MUCH more. However, when you consider the small amount of contact that you have with the physician combined with the time it will take you to type out all your questions, it’s really a toss up. The convenience of doing this entirely from home at a time that works for you is certainly a big plus for many. It just wasn’t enough for me to continue.
But I ain’t no quitter…
So what’s next for me? Well I’ve already moved on to my next step. When I went for my physical in January 2021, I spoke with my Primary Care Physician about my attempt with Found as well as my constant struggle to lose the rest of this weight. She did some bloodwork and referred me to a weight loss clinic the next town over for a non-surgical weight loss program. I met with a nutritionist in mid-February. She actually commented on my healthy eating habits, but still provided me with suggestions for changes I could be making. The very next week, I met with the actual doctor and she was great. It was a virtual visit and we had a great conversation. It was exactly the interaction I was hoping for. I told her the details about Found, what I had already tried, all the side effects I had with Contrave and all the Found medications, and what my concerns were in general. She went over my medication options and she recommended phentermine or Saxenda. She said she would be comfortable having me try either of these and she left the decision up to me. I decided to give Saxenda a try. It took about a week for my insurance to approve the Prior Authorization, but as of the writing of this entry, I have been on Saxenda for 6 days and have had ZERO side effects.
If you aren’t familiar with Saxenda, let me just start here: IT’S AN INJECTION THAT YOU ADMINISTER YOURSELF. Whew! Glad we got that out there right away. It is given subcutaneously (under the skin) using a very small needle. This really didn’t freak me out as much as I thought it would. Saxenda is the exact same medication used in the Diabetes medication Victoza. Like Metformin, it does have the potential for similar side effects. When I spoke with others using it though, I found that most had no side effects and the gradual titration method seems to be key with reducing or eliminating them entirely.
More on Saxenda to come. It’s only day 6, but so far so good! I’ll update soon… and I promise, I’ll try to not wait five months this time.
Be well, peeps!