Psychopharmacology of Weight Gain

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Novel antipsychotic medications and conventional antipsychotic medications affect a number of central neurotransmitter systems that may have an impact on satiety and feeding behavior. Many of the receptor systems blocked by antipsychotic medications are those that are stimulated by medications that promote weight loss. For example, all antipsychotic medications block dopamine D2 and noradrenergic ax receptors, the same sites stimulated by amphetamines and sympathomimetic amine drugs used to promote weight loss. Additionally, psychotropic drugs influence serotonin (5-HT) and histamine Hx neurotransmission, both of which have been reported to affect food intake and cause fluctuations in weight.

In examining the binding profiles of antipsychotic agents, the receptor affinity characteristic most closely correlated with weight gain among novel antipsychotic medications was Hx antagonism (Wirshing et al. 1999) (see Figure 3-1). Although H1 blockade also causes sedation, the mechanism by which H1 receptor antagonism may increase weight is peripheral interference with normal satiety signals from the gut, resulting in overeating (Knight 1985; Rockwell et al. 1983). Both low-potency conventional agents and those novel antipsychotic medications with higher weight gain potential have substantial affinity for this receptor (Schotte et al. 1993); however, what may contribute to the greater weight gain seen with some of the novel antipsychotics is the additional effect of 5-HT2C antagonism.

Since the advent of clozapine, novel antipsychotics have been designed primarily to be both relatively weak D2 antagonists and potent antagonists at 5-HT2A receptors, yet these agents also have substantial affinity for the closely related 5-HT2C receptor. It is known that compounds that stimulate 5-HT transmission reduce food consumption and cause weight loss (e.g., m-chlorphenylpiperazine, fenfluramine, sibutramine) whereas drugs that decrease 5-HT transmission increase food intake and are associated with weight gain (Goodall et al. 1988; Samanin and Garattini 1990). It is unclear which 5-HT receptor type is responsible for stimulating food intake and weight gain (Aulakh et al. 1992), but data implicate antagonism of 5-HT2C receptors as a possible site where novel antipsychotics might have an impact on weight (Tecott et al. 1995). Evidence for this assertion comes from two types of data. Drugs such as fenfluramine are thought to suppress appetite via 5-HT2C agonism (Garattini et al. 1989); moreover, Tecott and colleagues developed a strain of mice in which the gene coding for the

Olanzapine O Risperidone

Haloperidol Sertindole o


1/Hi receptor affinity (K¡)

y = 4.7[1-e ( 12'5x)] + 4.1 where y = adjusted maximum weight gain (%) and x = 1/Hi receptor affinity (Ki)

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