University of Chicago researchers say treating anorexia nervosa with low doses of a commonly used antipsychotic drug "consistently worked." Appearing in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, the study offers promise for a common and sometimes fatal eating disorder that currently lacks approved drugs for treatment.
Researcher Stephanie Klenotich said that mice treated with small doses of the drug olanzapine (marketed as Zyprexa, Zydis or Relprevv) were more likely to maintain their weight when given an exercise wheel and restricted food access, conditions that produce activity-based anorexia (ABA) in animals. The antidepressant fluoxetine, commonly prescribed off-label for anorexic patients, did not improve survival in the experiment.
"We found over and over again that olanzapine was effective in harsher conditions, less harsh conditions, adolescents, adults - it consistently worked," Klenotich noted.
The study was the product of a rare collaboration between laboratory scientists and clinicians seeking new treatment options for anorexia nervosa. "Anorexia nervosa is the most deadly psychiatric disorder, and yet no approved pharmacological treatments exist," said co-researcher Stephanie Dulawa. "One wonders why there isn't more basic science work being done to better understand the mechanisms and to identify novel pharmacological treatments."
The new study offers support for the clinical use of olanzapine, for which clinical trials are already under way to test in patients. Co-researcher Daniel Le Grange said the development of a pharmacological variant that more selectively treats anorexia nervosa could be a helpful way to avoid the "stigma" of taking an antipsychotic while giving clinicians an additional tool for helping patients.
"I think the clinical field is certainly very ready for something that is going to make a difference," Le Grange said. "I'm not saying there's a 'magic pill' for anorexia nervosa, but we have been lacking any pharmacological agent that clearly contributes to the recovery of our patients. Many parents and many clinicians are looking for that, because it would make our job so much easier if there was something that could turn symptoms around and speed up recovery."
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Source: University of Chicago Medical Center