FDA Approves Pill to Treat Eating Disorder

By Victoria Kim 02/11/15

The government agency approved the use of an ADHD drug to treat binge eating disorder.

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Could a pill fix an eating disorder? Apparently, it's at least possible, since last month the Food and Drug Administration approved the ADHD drug Vyvanse to treat binge-eating disorder.

This is the first FDA-approved medication to treat this condition. The drug was first approved in 2007 to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But now, according to the FDA, it is “an effective option to help curb episodes of binge-eating” as well. In clinical studies involving 724 people, those on Vyvanse binged fewer days each week than those taking placebos.

An “episode” of binge-eating is defined in the DSM-V as “eating, in a discrete period of time (usually two hours), an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances.”

However, some are not convinced that a drug can treat binge-eating disorder, the most common eating disorder in the U.S.

“I just don’t want there to be the message that there’s a simple pill you can take,” said Melissa Gerson, clinical director of Columbus Park Collaborate, an outpatient treatment center in New York for people with eating disorders. “There are longstanding behavior patterns that need to be explored and shifted.”

The most effective ways of dealing with binge-eating disorder are rooted in a combination of therapies, chief among them cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as well as intensive outpatient programs or nutrition counseling. The most effective treatment is done through therapy, not by taking pills, said Melissa Hopper, a psychologist who is an expert in treating binge-eating disorder. “Binge-eating disorder is a complex,” she said.

Not only that, patients with eating disorders often struggle with other issues like anxiety, depression, or trauma, said Emily Rosenthal, a New York psychotherapist who specializes in treating eating disorders.

Without addressing these issues and problematic behaviors that cause binge-eating disorder, Gerson added: “I can’t imagine how you would see any long-term improvements in the symptoms.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr