NARSAD Grant-Funded Research Identifies Genetic Links in Weight Gain from Antipsychotics

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Scientific Council member Anil K. Malhotra, M.D.,  professor of psychiatry at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine and also serves in the Division of Psychiatry Research in the Zucker Hillside Hospital campus of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, both in New York, Expert on mental illness
Anil K. Malhotra, M.D.

‘Second’ generation antipsychotic medications are known as atypical antipsychotic drugs (AAPD). Among them are clozapine and olanzapine (Clozaril® and Zyprexa®). Although AAPDs have proven effective with positive symptoms in patients who were non-responsive to other treatments, their use has been associated with extreme weight gain and other metabolic effects. To date, there has been no way to predict which patients might be most vulnerable to weight gain induced by AAPDs.

Scientific Council member Anil K. Malhotra, M.D., used his NARSAD Independent Investigator Grant to lead a study that has identified a gene variant that seems to play a prominent role in antipsychotic-medication-induced weight gain. Dr. Malhotra is a professor of psychiatry at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine and also serves in the Division of Psychiatry Research in the Zucker Hillside Hospital campus of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, both in New York. Other NARSAD Grantees involved in the study include NARSAD Young Investigator Grantees Christopher U. Correll, M.D., Todd Lencz, Ph.D. and Arun K. Tiwari, Ph.D. and NARSAD Independent Investigator Grantee, Roel A. Ophoff, Ph.D. The study first appeared online May 7th in the Archives of General Psychiatry, a publication of the American Medical Association. Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Scientific Council Members James L. Kennedy, M.D., Ph.D., Jeffrey A. Lieberman, M.D. and Herbert Y. Meltzer, M.D. were co-authors of the study.

While there is currently no clinical test available to identify the specific gene variant identified, progress is being made quickly to improve access to individualized genomic mapping and this type of testing may become available and accessible. With that type of testing, once specific genetic links have been identified, individuals found to be carrying the gene or gene variant can be offered alternative treatment strategies prior to commencing treatment.

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Article comments

I have written about the problem of weight gain and atypical antipsychotics. There is a clinical test called the PIMS (Psychotropic-Induced Metabolic Symptoms) PhyzioType that is under development at Genomas in partnership with Hartford Hospital and the Institute of Living.

y 26 year old son has gained about 60 pounds with clozapine and it negatively affects him in many ways. I find it one more of the horrible aspects of schizophrenia.

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