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Memantine reduces binge eating, but not body weight

Reuters Health • The Doctor's Channel Daily Newscast

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – The Alzheimer’s drug memantine appears to be a useful treatment for binge eating disorder, significantly reducing the frequency and severity of binge episodes, although it does not induce weight loss, new research shows.

Lead author Dr. Brian P. Brennan, from McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, told Reuters Health that his team was not surprised that memantine reduced binge episodes since that was their initial hypothesis.

On the other hand, he added, “We were surprised that memantine was not associated with a reduction in body weight. A previous small study using memantine in five individuals with binge eating disorder showed a reduction in both frequency of binge episodes and body weight.”

The results, which appear in the September issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders, stem from a 12-week, open-label, flexible-dose (5-20 mg/day) trial of memantine in 16 patients with binge eating disorder. Fifteen of the patients completed one or more follow-up evaluations and nine patients completed the study.

With treatment, the average number of binges per week fell from 5.5 to 1.2 and the mean number of binge days per week dropped from 4.4 to 1.1 (p < 0.001). Memantine therapy was also associated with a reduction in disease severity, as measured on the Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale modified for Binge Eating.

Treatment with memantine also significantly reduced disinhibition behavior (p = 0.015) on the Three Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ) as well as disability on the Sheehan Disability Scale (p < 0.05).

Memantine had no effect on body weight, or on the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale, the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale, or the cognitive restraint and hunger parameters of the TFEQ.

“Medications that act by reducing the activity of the neurotransmitter glutamate may have future applications in binge eating disorder or other illnesses that involve disordered eating,” Dr. Brennan said.

“Because this study used an open-label design, it is limited by the absence of a placebo group,” he noted. “We are currently discussing plans to do a larger placebo-controlled study of memantine in binge eating disorder.”

Int J Eat Disord 2008;41:520-526.