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Current Psychopharmacology


ISSN (Print): 2211-5560
ISSN (Online): 2211-5579

Are Antipsychotics Useful in the Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa? A Review of the Literature

Author(s): Michele Fabrazzo, Palmiero Monteleone and Mario Maj

Volume 2, Issue 1, 2013

Page: [18 - 28] Pages: 11

DOI: 10.2174/2211556011302010018

Price: $65


A review of the literature on the use of second generation antipsychotics (SGA) in adolescent and adult patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) is presented. Open-label studies and case reports suggested beneficial effects of variable doses of olanzapine, quetiapine, risperidone and aripiprazole in AN subjects. Randomized, double-blind, controlled studies conducted mainly with olanzapine demonstrated its efficacy on specific psychopathological aspects of AN. Moreover, although not consistently, increases in Body Mass Index (BMI) or appetite with no significant side effects were also reported. Taken together, the data of olanzapine studies, even if with a number of different limitations, show that this pharmacological treatment can be effective in improving specific aspects of AN in adult but not in adolescent patients. Further studies are warranted to consolidate these findings. Quetiapine and aripiprazole seem to be potentially promising options in the treatment of severe adult and adolescent AN patients because of their lower propensity to induce weight gain, revealing positive psychopathological effects and good tolerability. Given the inherent cardiac risks associated with the treatment of low weight AN patients, care should be taken when SGA use is being considered. Moreover, although SGA use might be associated to several other side effects (increasing weight, developing glucose intolerance and/or diabetes, metabolic disturbances) little has been published on this topic in AN patients and only few of the analyzed studies have reported adverse reactions. The different mechanisms underlying these effects are therefore discussed. Future directions for pharmacologic treatment research in AN should include randomized controlled trials with different antipsychotic medications, inpatient versus outpatient trials and the assessment of medication effect for relapse prevention in weight-restored patients.

Keywords: Anorexia nervosa, antipsychotics, cardiac side effects, eating disorders, olanzapine, quetiapine

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