In study, nasal spray cuts addictive binge eating in obese patients

In a Finnish Phase II study, researchers have shown that a nasal spray could help curb binge eating disorder in patients who are overweight or obese.

Binge eating disorder affects about 2.8% of the U.S. adult population, according to a Medscape Medical News report. To fight bingeing urges, the University of Helsinki scientists used the FDA-approved opioid antagonist naloxone, currently in use only as an injection to reverse the effects of opioid poisoning and to treat alcohol dependence. This process, called pharmacological extinction, blocks endorphins that reinforce addictive behavior, according to the article.

In the 24-week, 127-patient study, the researchers found that the nasal spray worked within minutes, an important distinction because, unlike a more persistent alcohol craving, bingeing behavior occurs rapidly. The spray works for two hours at a time, and patients were instructed to carry it on them to use at a moment's notice.

Patients who used the spray, mostly obese or severely obese women, reduced their bingeing time by 75%, or 125 minutes, as compared to 62%, or 84 minutes, in the placebo group, according to the study's results. And they also showed a small decrease in body mass index in the second half of the study.

Evelyn Attia, director of the Center for Eating Disorders at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, who wasn't involved with the study, told Medscape: "The idea that there may be some addictive properties to a binge eating episode is interesting, and the question of whether something that blocks our opioid receptors might change the experience of, and the desire to engage in, those behaviors is certainly an interesting hypothesis."

The researchers presented the trial results at the American Psychiatric Association's 2013 annual meeting.

- here's the Medscape Medical News report (reg. req.)