Unnecessary Rx for Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa patients given antidepressants or antipsychotics which do not help

January 2, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

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(dailyRx News) There are no medications approved to treat anorexia nervosa, but often patients are given psychotropic meds anyway. These meds have multiple side-effects and no clear benefit.

A recent study looked at women treated for anorexia nervosa. Over half were prescribed antipsychotics or antidepressants, even though there is no supporting evidence that these medications improve anorexia nervosa.

"Talk to your doctor about any medication risks."

Pouneh K. Frazeli, MD, and Anne Klibanski, MD, from the Neuroendocrine Unit within the Department of Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, worked with a team to investigate the use of psychotropic medications in patients with anorexia nervosa.

For the study, 525 women between the ages of 18-54 who presented with anorexia nervosa between 1997-2009 at the Clinical Research Center at the Massachusetts General Hospital were analyzed.

Researchers put patients from 1997-2002 in Group I and patients from 2003-2009 in Group II. A total of 53 percent of women reported being prescribed a psychotropic medication, with 48 percent using antidepressants and 13 percent taking antipsychotics.

Women in Group II were twice as likely as women in Group I to have taken atypical antipsychotics at 19 percent, compared to 9 percent.

Antipsychotics mentioned in the study included risperidone, quetiapine and ziprasidone.

Antidepressants mentioned in the study included selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI).

Authors noted that over half of the patients were prescribed psychotropic medications despite a lack of evidence that they helped at all. There are well-known side effects to these class of drugs.

Bone loss is among the side effects of antipsychotics and antidepressants, especially for those with low nutrient intake, such as people with anorexia nervosa.

Authors said this group was at an increased risk for bone fractures.

This study was published in June in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. Funding was supported by the National Center for Research Resources and the National Institutes of Health. No conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 26, 2012
Last Updated:
January 3, 2013