Treatment With a Ghrelin Agonist in Outpatient Women With Anorexia Nervosa: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Objective: To assess the effects of relamorelin—an agonist of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin, which has effects on gastric emptying—on (1) weight gain and (2) gastric emptying in women with anorexia nervosa.

Methods: In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled design, the effects of the ghrelin agonist relamorelin were studied in 22 outpatient women with anorexia nervosa, diagnosed using DSM-5 criteria. The study was conducted at the Massachusetts General Hospital Clinical Research Center between March 11, 2013, and February 26, 2015. Ten participants were randomly assigned to relamorelin 100 μg subcutaneously daily (mean ± SEM age: 28.9 ± 2.4 y), and 12 were randomly assigned to placebo (28.9 ± 1.9 y). We measured changes in weight and gastric emptying time using a gastric emptying breath test (GEBT) for relamorelin versus placebo after 4 weeks of treatment.

Results: At baseline, subjects did not differ in weight, plasma ghrelin levels, or gastric emptying time. Three subjects randomized to relamorelin stopped use of the study medication due to reported feelings of increased hunger. After 4 weeks, there was a trend toward an increase in weight in participants randomized to relamorelin (mean ± SEM change: 0.86 ± 0.40 kg) compared to placebo (0.04 ± 0.28 kg; P = .07), and gastric emptying time was significantly shorter in patients taking relamorelin (median [interquartile range]: 58.0 [51.0, 78.0] minutes) compared to placebo (85.0 [75.8,100.5] minutes; P = .03).

Conclusions: Treatment with a ghrelin agonist in women with anorexia nervosa significantly decreases gastric emptying time, leads to a trend in weight gain after only 4 weeks, and is well-tolerated. Further study is necessary to determine the long-term safety and efficacy of a ghrelin agonist in the treatment of anorexia nervosa.

Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT01642550

J Clin Psychiatry 2018;79(1):17m11585

https://doi.org/10.4088/JCP.17m11585