The purpose of this article is to review the psychopharmacology treatment literature for patients with eating disorders including bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and binge eating disorder. The best-developed treatment literature concerns bulimia nervosa, which has been studied now in several dozen pharmacological treatment studies. The agents most commonly used are the antidepressants, with particular focus on the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors including fluoxetine hydrochloride. These agents clearly impact significantly on the frequency of abnormal eating behaviors such as binge eating and purging. However, subjects treated with these drugs rarely achieve remission. Pharmacotherapy of anorexia nervosa has also traditionally focused on the use of antidepressants and there is some evidence that the use of SSRIs may help in preventing relapse in weight restored patients. Recently interest has developed in the use of atypical neuroleptics to help with the obsessionality and resistance to treatment frequently seen in low weight patients, the most commonly employed agent being olanzapine. Pharmacotherapy of binge-eating disorder is now being intensively investigated. In general medication alone seems inferior to psychotherapy in the short term. Antidepressants can increase the amount of weight loss when combined with psychological treatment and also appear to benefit symptoms such as depression. Further data are needed, but a number of drugs appear promising.
Keywords: pharmacology, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, antidepressants, antipsychotics, depression, eating disorders
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