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Are Antipsychotics Effective for the Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa? Results From a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

J Clin Psychiatry 2012;73(6):e757-e766
10.4088/JCP.12r07691

Objective: To assess the utility of antipsychotics for weight gain and improvement of illness-related psychopathology in patients with anorexia nervosa.

Data Sources: PubMed, the Cochrane Library databases, and PsycINFO citations from the inception of the databases until March 27, 2012, were searched without language restrictions using the following keywords: randomized, random, randomly, and anorexia nervosa. In addition, we hand-searched for additional studies eligible for inclusion in this meta-analysis and contacted authors for unpublished data.

Study Selection: Included in this study were randomized placebo- or usual care–controlled trials of antipsychotics in patients with anorexia nervosa.

Data Extraction: Two independent evaluators extracted data. The primary outcome of interest was body weight, expressed as the standardized mean difference (SMD) between the 2 groups in baseline to endpoint change of body mass index (BMI), endpoint BMI, or daily weight change. SMD, risk ratio (RR), and number needed to harm (NNH) ± 95% confidence interval (CI) were calculated.

Results: Across 8 studies (mean duration = 9.6 weeks; range, 7–12 weeks), 221 patients (mean age = 22.5 years, 219 [99.1%] females) with anorexia nervosa were randomly assigned to olanzapine (n = 54), quetiapine (n = 15), risperidone (n = 18), pimozide (n = 8), sulpiride (n = 9), placebo (n = 99), or usual care (n = 18). Both individually (P = .11 to P = .47) and pooled together (SMD = 0.27, 95% CI, −0.01 to 0.56; P = .06, I2 = 0%; 7 studies, n = 195), weight/BMI effects were not significantly different between antipsychotics and placebo/usual care. Moreover, pooled antipsychotics and placebo/usual care did not differ regarding scores on questionnaires related to anorexia nervosa (P = .32, 5 studies, n = 114), body shape (P = .91, 4 studies, n = 100), depressive symptoms (P = .08, 4 studies, n = 103), and anxiety (P = .53, 4 studies, n = 121). Individually, quetiapine (1 study, n = 33) outperformed usual care regarding eating disorder attitudes (P = .01) and anxiety (P = .02). While rates of dropout due to any reason (P = .83, I2 = 0%) and due to adverse events (P = .54, I2 = 5%) were similar in both groups, drowsiness/sedation occurred significantly more often with antipsychotics than placebo/usual care (RR = 3.69, 95% CI, 1.37–9.95; I2 = 67%, P = .01; NNH = 2, P = .001; 5 studies, n = 129), but most other adverse effects were only sparsely reported.

Conclusions: Although limited by small samples, this meta-analysis failed to demonstrate antipsychotic efficacy for body weight and related outcomes in females with anorexia nervosa.

J Clin Psychiatry 2012;73(6):e757–e766

Submitted: February 1, 2012; accepted April 5, 2012 (doi:10.4088/JCP.12r07691).

Corresponding author: Christoph U. Correll, MD, Division of Psychiatry Research, The Zucker Hillside Hospital, 75-59 263rd St, Glen Oaks, NY 11004 (ccorrell@lij.edu).