Toronto—A common patient complaint about mental-health drugs is that the medications make it hard for them to lose weight. Based on new research, pharmacists now have an answer for that.

A study published online by the journal Obesity provides evidence that patients on antidepressants and/or antipsychotics can effectively lose weight if they participate in a weight-management program. University of Toronto–led researchers tout their study as the first to examine weight-loss (WL) outcomes in individuals taking antidepressants or antipsychotics alone, in combination, or not at all.

“The results of this study are relevant not only to the healthcare professionals providing care to those who have both excess weight and mental illness, but also to the patients who experience these comorbidities themselves,” said lead author Rebecca Christensen, a PhD student at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health in Canada.

The authors point out that patients with mental-health conditions are have an increased risk—1.5 times—of being obese, and that many of the medications used to treat their disorders have weight gain as a side effect. What was unknown, however, was whether using the drugs made it especially difficult to lose weight.

Included in the study were 17,519 adults enrolled in a lifestyle WL intervention at the Wharton Medical Clinics in Ontario, Canada. Even though 23% of the participants were taking at least one psychiatric medication, the authors determined that patients lost a significant amount of weight (P <.0001) regardless of psychiatric medication use.

In fact, they report that women taking psychiatric medications lost an amount of weight similar that of women who were not (P >.05), while men taking antidepressants lost only slightly less weight than men taking both classes of psychiatric medication or neither class (3.2 ± 0.3 kg vs. 5.6 ± 0.9 kg and 4.3 ± 0.1 kg; P <.05).

“However, taking psychiatric medications that cause weight gain was associated with similar significant decreases in weight as taking medications that are weight neutral or associated with WL for both sexes (P >.05),” the researchers explain.

“Results of this study suggest that those who participate in a weight management program can lose significant amounts of weight regardless of psychiatric medication use,” the authors conclude.

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