Severe Weight Gain During Anti-psychotic Treatment May Be Genetic

One of the major negative side effects of current anti-psychotic pharmaceuticals, especially among children, is rapid weight gain. Now research suggests this weight gain may have a strong genetic component, potentially giving doctors and research pharmacists a new target for the next generation of anti-psychotic treatments.

Designing a genome-wide association study (GWAS), the research team from Zucker Hillside Hospital and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research compared pediatric patients who were just receiving their first treatments with second generation anti-psychotics (SGAs) with various demographic models of adult patients. This allowed them to isolate the melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) as the gene responsible for anti-psychotic triggered weight gain. The gene has already been implicated in the development of obesity and type II diabetes. The latest study showed people with the gene gained nearly 20 pounds while on anti-psychotic medication.

Scientists have blamed the weight gain aspect of SGAs for the increased mortality among those taking the drugs. Not only can the obesity and attendant issues like cardiovascular disease shorten a patient's lifespan by as much as 30 years, but it can also cause a patient to stop taking the drugs they need to maintain a positive quality of life.

Ultimately, the most immediate value of the study will be in the ability to specifically identify at-risk patients prior to the subscription of SGAs. While they will likely continue to be a common and largely effective treatment for psychotic disorders, clinicians will be better able to weigh the benefits for an at-risk person versus the drawbacks.

Source: Archives of General Psychiatry

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