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Tuesday, May 18, 1999 Published at 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK


Psychiatric drugs could aid weight loss

Dieting could be easier with new drugs

A new type of anti-depressant can help obese patients lose weight, a study has shown.

Researchers at the Duke University Medical Center in Washington, US, say their work using the drug buproprion SR shows 'significant clinical benefits' in terms of weight loss.

It is thought that the anti-depressant may make the patient feel satisfied after eating a smaller quantity of food.

Women without any signs of depression, weighing on average 100 kilos, were put on a moderate 1,600-calorie-a-day diet for eight weeks.

After that period, the 18 patients taking the drug had lost an average of 6.21 per cent of their body weight, compared to just 1.56 per cent in the group of patients given a placebo tablet containing no medication.

And the slimming appears to be continuing, even beyond the six month mark.

Psychiatrist Dr Kishore Gadde spotted the potential of buproprion SR when he used the drug to treat mildly depressed patients, but noticed they seemed to lose far greater amounts of weight than under previous treatment regimes.

He said: "Here we have a well-tolerated drug that has shown significant clinical benefits in reducing weight.

"While we have to approach the results cautiously because the long-term results are not completed, we are very excited about the potential this drug has for treating obesity."

New generation treatment

[ image: Modern anti-depressants affect different brain chemicals]
Modern anti-depressants affect different brain chemicals
Unlike many older anti-depressants, buproprion SR doesn't affect the brain chemical seratonin, which controls mood.

Instead it increases the amounts of norephinephrine and dopamine, two other brain chemicals which produce feelings of reward and pleasure.

Dr Gadde said: "A lot of patients have said that, while on the drug, they can eat a small peice of pie and feel satisfied, although not necessarily full.

"So it appears they feel rewarded much quicker than they normally do without the drug."

Burproprion is not currently licenced by the Food and Drug Administration in the US for use as a weight loss treatment, and should not be use by patients with seizure disorders such as epilepsy, anorexia or bulimia.

Careful monitoring

A spokesman for the Eating Disorders Association said that he was concerned that GPs should monitor any prescriptions of anti-depressant drugs carefully.

He said: "It's a fact that people with anorexia or bulimia will abuse drugs, and so it's important that GPs are very cautious."

Dr Andrew Hill, a senior lecturer in behavioural sciences at Leeds Medical School, said it was possible that the drug increased the ability of patients to keep to a strict diet.

He said: "It is possible this may have benefits, as there is a dearth of prescribable medication for obesity.

"It's clearly worth pursuing, as there is a crisis in obesity in this country at the moment."

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