Antidepressant treatment could assist weight loss

Research suggests that off-label fluoxetine may help people lose weight, but more high-certainty evidence is needed before its use can be recommended for weight loss.

Fluoxetine 10mg carton

Off-label fluoxetine may help overweight and obese people to lose weight, but the evidence supporting this is limited, the authors of a Cochrane review (15 October 2019) have concluded[1]

The review and meta-analysis included 19 studies involving 2,216 participants who were randomly assigned to the serotonin reuptake inhibitor, fluoxetine or a control group. The control groups included placebo, other anti-obesity agents, omega-3 gel or no treatment.

Overall, the authors found that, compared with placebo, fluoxetine was associated with greater average weight loss, with a mean difference across all dosages and duration of treatments of –2.7kg. In studies with non-placebo control groups, the results were inconclusive.

The researchers also noted that a greater proportion of fluoxetine-treated patients experienced adverse events compared with placebo-treated patients (63.6% vs. 56.2%).

Fluoxetine is thought to influence weight by diminishing appetite and normalising altered eating behaviours, the researchers explained. They said their findings were based on low-certainty evidence, however, and that further research was needed.

“To ensure the efficacy and safety of fluoxetine in overweight or obese adults, high-certainty evidence is needed to analyse the effects of long-term use of fluoxetine to promote weight loss and to determine the severity of adverse events,” they added.


[1] Serralde-Zúñiga A, Gonzalez Garay A, Rodríguez-Carmona Y & Melendez G. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2019;(10):CD011688. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD011688.pub2

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, January 2020, Vol 304, No 7933;304(7933):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20207468

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