Weight-gain side effect of medication tackled by Aussie scientists

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 11th January 2012

Australian scientists have found that the side-effects experienced by young people who take anti-psychotic medication, for illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, may be eradicated with medical monitoring, corrective diet measures, and designed exercise programs.

The findings come from collaborative research by scientists at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Prince of Wales Hospital, both in Sydney. Their findings were published this week in the journal Early Intervention in Psychiatry.

Anti-psychotic drugs can dramatically increase weight as well as the incidence of metabolic disorders such as raised blood fats and Type 2 diabetes.

Professor Katherine Samaras, clinical researcher at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research said that people with psychosis have a life-expectancy 20 years less than the average Australian.

“They mostly die from cardiovascular causes, often with diabetes as a major factor. Much of this diabetes could be prevented by early intervention to prevent the weight gain that occurs on medications,” Professor Samara said.

A new ‘treatment algorithm’ program was devised by Professor Samaras, psychiatrist Dr Jackie Curtis and colleagues from the Bondi Early Psychosis Program, at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney.

The program includes regular and specified measurements of weight, waistline and blood chemistry – as well as counselling about lifestyle and diet.

Associate Professor Katherine Samaras said, “We can intervene early and teach young people healthy habits in daily living. In practical terms, we need to develop an army of health care workers – doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, dieticians, exercise physiologists and so on – who can get involved.”

A new treatment program has been designed and adopted through guidelines of the State of New South Wales Health Department (NSW Health) in June 2010, and is also being adopted in the UK by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal College of General Practitioners. The program offers metabolic screening and monitoring as well as diet and lifestyle advice.