Pharmacotherapy of eating disorders

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Medications are commonly prescribed in the treatment of eating disorders. In this review, we discuss relevant medications used for the treatment of bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder (BED), and anorexia nervosa. We focus on recent research developments, where applicable, in addition to discussing important findings from older studies to provide a complete synopsis of the current evidence base for eating disorder treatment using pharmacologic agents.

Recent findings

Medications are generally useful for patients with bulimia nervosa and BED. For bulimia nervosa, antidepressant medications are the primary pharmacologic treatment and limited new research has been completed. For BED, lisdexamfetamine is reported to be generally well tolerated and effective, and is the first medication to be indicated by the US Food and Drug Administration for treatment of BED. For anorexia nervosa, there is limited evidence supporting benefits of medications. Second-generation antipsychotics, particularly olanzapine, appear to demonstrate some benefit for weight gain in anorexia nervosa, although are not advised as a stand-alone treatment. Transdermal administration of hormonal agents is also being explored for improving bone health in anorexia nervosa.

Summary

Although pharmacotherapy has established utility in bulimia nervosa and BED, further research on medications for the treatment of eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa, is necessary.

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