Emerging drugs for eating disorder treatment.

Abstract

Anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN) and binge eating disorder (BED) comprise the currently recognised eating disorders. Although distinct diagnostic entities, they share certain forms of comorbid psychopathology, particularly anxiety and mood disorders. BN and BED have been studied most intensively as targets for pharmacotherapy. The list of drugs tested in eating disorders is substantial; however, the number of therapeutic classes of medications tested in these conditions is relatively modest. Antidepressant medications, including tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, as well as some of the novel antidepressants, have shown evidence of some therapeutic value in both BN and BED. Their efficacy in AN, however, has been disappointing. The pharmacological options for AN are very limited. The number of controlled trials that have been conducted is small, and the research that has been successfully completed has generally failed to demonstrate medication efficacy. Patients with BN typically show reduced binge eating and purging frequency in medication trials, but rarely attain abstinence. In BED, patients often measure the value of their medication therapy by its ability to stimulate weight loss, which is another area on which future pharmacotherapy may improve. Novel pharmacological interventions are needed for each of these conditions. Peptide hormones are increasingly being evaluated for eating disorder treatment, including ghrelin agonists, neuropeptide Y1 and -5 antagonists, orexin receptor antagonists, corticotropin-releasing factor receptor 2 antagonists, histamine 3 antagonists, melanocortin 4 receptor antagonists, beta3-adrenoceptor agonists, 5-hydroxytryptamine-2A antagonists and growth hormone agonists. Although these compounds are in early phases of clinical testing for eating disorder treatments, data from these studies will be instructive in the quest for effective pharmacotherapy for these conditions. An overview of the current pharmacotherapy options for eating disorders is presented with a discussion of the emerging potential treatments.