Wednesday, July 16, 2008


The anti-psychotic drug olanzapine, used to treat schizophrenia, may also help patients with anorexia.

Encouraging news on the research front...


"Drug helps anorexia patients gain weight, feel happy

Updated Mon. Jul. 14 2008 3:35 PM ET News Staff

A drug used to treat schizophrenia may be a new tool to help patients with anorexia gain weight and control their obsessive thoughts about food.

New Canadian research has found that when anorexia patients take olanzapine, they gain weight, feel calmer and do not have the obsessive thoughts about weight and food that characterize the debilitating condition.

Dr. Hany Bissada

The research was led by Dr. Hany Bissada, a psychiatrist at and director of The Ottawa Hospital Regional Centre for the Treatment of Eating Disorders. The study included 34 women with anorexia who were enrolled in the centre's day program for anorexia treatment.

Patients were given either a placebo or the anti-psychotic drug olanzapine, one of the side effects of which is weight gain.

The findings are published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The researchers caution that the drug is not a cure for the disease. Patients with anorexia need counselling and often have to work with a dietitian or nutritionist.

However, the medication allows patients to be more open to getting treatment.

"It is an important finding because, for the first time, it gives us hope to say there is a medication because even though it is not a cure, it can help facilitate treatment for anorexia nervosa," Bissada told CTV News.

Anorexia nervosa affects about 0.5 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 24.

Patients become obsessed with being thin and have a fear of being overweight. They become emaciated, which can lead to a number of health problems. Patients often don't believe they have a problem.

"Denial is a big part of the illness," Dr. Wendy Spettigue of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario told CTV News. "So patients often don't recognize it and, if they do, they are often too afraid to get treatment."

Anorexia is the most fatal of all psychiatric disorders.

Debbie Wiseman (see her video interview below)

Debbie Wiseman was one of the study participants. Before enrolling she weighed 69 pounds. She felt fat, unpopular and was afraid that anything she ate would make her gain weight.

"It came to a point where I wanted to die because I was not happy with myself," Wiseman told CTV News.

After she started taking olanzapine, she began to gain weight and feel happier. And she noticed that she was no longer afraid to have a piece of pizza or a chocolate bar.

Now she is a healthy 115 pounds, and she believes the drug is directly responsible for her improvement.

"If I didn't take it I don't know that I'd be here today," Wiseman said.

With a report from CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and senior producer Elizabeth St. Philip"

Watch the full interview as Dr. Hany Bissada discusses the drug's new use:

Debbie Wiseman talks about treating her anorexia. Watch the full interview:



Olanzapine in the Treatment of Low Body Weight and Obsessive Thinking in Women With Anorexia Nervosa: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial

Hany Bissada, M.D., Giorgio A. Tasca, Ph.D., Ann Marie Barber, M.A., and Jacques Bradwejn, M.D.

OBJECTIVE: Anorexia nervosa is associated with high mortality, morbidity, and treatment costs. Olanzapine, an atypical antipsychotic, is known to result in weight gain in other patient populations. The objective of this trial was to assess the efficacy of olanzapine in promoting weight gain and in reducing obsessive symptoms among adult women with anorexia nervosa.

METHOD: The study was a double-blind, placebo-controlled, 10-week flexible dose trial in which patients with anorexia nervosa (N=34) were randomly assigned to either olanzapine plus day hospital treatment or placebo plus day hospital treatment.

RESULTS: Compared with placebo, olanzapine resulted in a greater rate of increase in weight, earlier achievement of target body mass index, and a greater rate of decrease in obsessive symptoms. No differences in adverse effects were observed between the two treatment conditions.

CONCLUSIONS: These preliminary results suggest that olanzapine may be safely used in achieving more rapid weight gain and improvement in obsessive symptoms among women with anorexia nervosa. Replication, in the form of a large multicenter trial, is recommended.

Link to Full Study (requires registration)


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Anonymous said...

I'm skeptical of this. It's so likely to be considered a "cure" and people be dished it out in large amounts without therapy and the other support anorexics need. Just the same way that other mental illnesses are dealt with - pills and no other help.

Medusa said...

Hi, Josie!

Thanks so much for your comment.

I certainly understand your skeptism, though I am encouraged by this comment:

"The researchers caution that the drug is not a cure for the disease. Patients with anorexia need counselling and often have to work with a dietitian or nutritionist."

If you haven't seen the video interviews of Dr. Bissada and Debbie Wiseman at the bottom of this blog post, I hope you'll have a moment to view them. They're very interesting.

Take care, Josie. I always enjoy and appreciate hearing from you. Hugs to you...

Sue said...

Amino acid therapy may be a better, natural alternative.

Anonymous said...

i was put on this stuff for that reason and hated every second of it. it sure does increase you appetite but didnt stop me from restricting, just had to fight harder and made me feel more crazy! so from the point of view of an anorexic who doesnt want to recover and someone against mind altering drugs being forced upon you: EVIL.

Anonymous said...

Hoo boy. I took this med for bipolar disorder. I was a healthy weight when I began taking it, but after less than 5 months on it, I'd gained over 60 pounds without making any significant dietary changes.

Ironically, while struggling to lose the extra weight, I found myself obsessing about exercise, calories, and weighing myself every other minute.

I'm not trying to rain on anybody's parade, because some people have had good results with olanzapine... I just wanted to share my own experience, for what it's worth.

Medusa said...


Thanks so much for sharing your experience with olanzapine. It's certainly not the drug for everyone.

Thankfully, your obsessive calorie counting and constant weighing of yourself didn't result in you developing a full-blown eating disorder.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I am unique but I lost(!) weight with Zyprexa. I guess they gave me Zyprexa (and Haloperidol, Lorazepam, Diazepam, Leponex, Risperdal, and many more ... one after an other, sometimes a few at the same time ...) because they wanted me to keep my trap shut. I am very sceptical of pills but if anybody believes that Zyprexa may help to gain weight I really wish them all the best. I hope they have a good doctor who won´t try to abuse them in any way. (My English is so bad that it´s good, isn´t it?) - Bye.

Anonymous said...

okay this woman might have gotten better after taking olanzapine, but it wasn't the olanzapine trust me. I was in a hospital on a program for ed and this was the medicine they delivered if needed...most of the people there took it and i myself did too. It didn't realluy help the thoughts...some it did and i believe it can help some with the depressive thougths or at least dumb them down a bit...but making you want to eat a chocolate bar or not feeling bad...this is total crap...i took it for a year and a half and never felt like eating junk...and none of my fellow patients did either...

i don't know about the weight gain but if its true than we were all told lies...that just makes it worse for it stops the patients from trusting the doctors even more...we were told it does not make you put on weight at all...anyway thats all i have...i fell that medicine isn't the right way to go, i don't believe in it for it is just like the doctors can;t be bothered to actually help is just another excuse and its niot something that should be makes you feel nothing...yes that could be good for not feeling bad but not feeling good?Yeah well thats my thoughts...

love naomi xoxo

Anonymous said...

I've had bulimia and anorexia for years, since I was 11...this summer I took zyprexa for psychotic depression and in 3 months I went from 120 to 155 pounds... I freaked out, refuse to take the med, and began to relentlessly lose the weight... now I can't stop... I think it might be good for someone with a bmi under 15... and then stopped in time for the person to start gaining reasonable amounts of weight on their own- but would have to be carefully monitored and not dished out. Zyprexa is scary stuff and the lawsuits say it all. But for me it just triggered another episode in a long battle

Faith said...

Oh wow.
I cannot quite adequately describe the relief I felt when I was put on olanzapine.
I was put on it because I was suffering a bit of a psychotic depressive episode and because I was restricting again. The doctor said it'd help my appetite as well as lessen the graphic suicidal thoughts I was having.
Oh boy was I skeptical.
I thought, " nothing can make me want to eat again."
Well it took awhile, but after a month or so, I was definitely more hungry and I felt less guilt about eating.
I was so pleased!!
But then the choices in what I was eating was terrible. See olanzapine doesn't just increase your appetite, it makes you crave carbs in particular.
Well then, without the guilt of eating I started eating all the wrong things and the weight piled on.
Once my doctor noticed that I'd put on weight she said( this being a psychiatrist treating an anorexic patient mind you)
"your looking pretty heavy, I'm going to take you off the olanzapine."
So off I went. And when i came off I got insomnia, which I had never had before. Even with the anorexia. But I got it because I was used to the sedative effects of the olanzipine.
Then I really noticed my weight. And without the calmness I had from the olanzapine I panicked. I began restricting straight away, feeling guilty after every morsel.
Now I feel like I now need a drug that I didnt need in the first place really. Because going off it had made me worse then before.
I believe that similar drugs. Used appropriately with counseling and nurtrition may work. But right bow I do t think it's the olanzapine.
That being said. God I wish I had some right now.
And this drug doesn't even have addictive properties.
I just don't know how to cope without it now.
That and I REALLY need some sleep -.-

Anonymous said...

I know this post is old, but I have to put in my two cents: I was a healthy weight when I started Zyprexa, and ballooned to over 200 lbs very quickly. Since going off of it I have restricted myself down to less than 120 lbs at 5'8" and honestly I have no plans to stop. Ever since taking this drug I have felt like a disgusting cow no matter what my size.

Zyprexa GAVE me an ed.