The first medication has been approved to treat binge eating disorder, and it’s one that many people already familiar with. Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine), the most prescribed ADHD medication in the US, is now FDA approved as the one and only medication to treat binge eating disorder.
Binge eating disorder is a newly minted official psychiatric diagnosis, making its first appearance in the DSM-5, released in 2013. Binge eating disorder is characterized by recurring episodes of excessive overeating at least once per month for at least three months. These episodes must cause distress and include feeling a lack of control and/or discomfort. They are not associated with any compensatory behavior, such as purging or taking laxatives. (A summary of the diagnostic criteria can be seen here.)
About 3.5% of females and 2% of males will experience binge eating disorder at some point in life, according to statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health. As many as 20% of obese adults may have binge eating disorder.
“Binge eating can cause serious health problems and difficulties with work, home, and social life,” said Mitchell Mathis, M.D., director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “The approval of Vyvanse provides physicians and patients with an effective option to help curb episodes of binge eating.”
Vyvanse is a stimulant that is FDA approved for ADHD in people ages 6 and up. It is one of a recent crop of stimulants that are formulated to cut down on abuse potential and last longer than a typical short-acting medication like Ritalin.
Vyvanse was approved for binge eating disorder under the FDA’s new priority review program. This is one of four programs the agency has created in order to speed up the review and approval process for drugs that “would be significant improvements in the safety or effectiveness of the treatment, diagnosis, or prevention of serious conditions when compared to standard applications.”
With the priority review process, the FDA aims to take action on an application for a new drug (or new indication for an old drug) within six months, versus the standard 10 months for most drug applications. The clinical trial period and requirements are no different for priority review than for any other medication review.
Vyvanse was approved for binge eating disorder based on two clinical trials that included a total of 724 adults with the diagnosis. Participants saw a decrease in the number of binge eating days per week and had fewer obsessive-compulsive binge eating behaviors compared to those on placebo.
Currently, the treatment of choice for binge eating disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy. Antidepressants, SSRIs in particular, have been studied as a treatment for binge eating disorder, as well, with mixed results. You can see an overview of these treatments in the Psych Central article Treatment for Binge Eating.
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