Behavior therapy and sibutramine for the treatment of adolescent obesity: a randomized controlled trial

JAMA. 2003 Apr 9;289(14):1805-12. doi: 10.1001/jama.289.14.1805.


Context: Adolescent obesity is becoming a national public health problem. Weight-loss medications including sibutramine facilitate weight control in adults and could be used with obese adolescents in combination with behavior therapy (BT).

Objective: To examine whether increased weight loss in obese adolescents is induced when sibutramine is added to a family-based, behavioral weight control program.

Design, setting, and participants: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial consisting of 82 adolescents aged 13 to 17 years with a body mass index (BMI) of 32 to 44 conducted from March 1999 to August 2002 at a university-based clinic for 6 months, followed by open-label treatment during months 7 to 12.

Interventions: For the first 6 months, participants received either BT and sibutramine or BT and placebo. From months 7 to 12, all participants received sibutramine in open-label treatment.

Main outcome measures: Percentage change in BMI; systolic and diastolic blood pressure and pulse; and hunger.

Results: In intention-to-treat analysis at month 6, participants in the BT and sibutramine group lost a mean (SD) of 7.8 kg (6.3 kg) and had an 8.5% (6.8%) reduction in BMI, which was significantly more than weight loss of 3.2 kg (6.1 kg) and reduction in BMI of 4.0% (5.4%) in the BT and placebo group. Significantly greater reductions in hunger (P =.002) also were reported by participants who received BT and sibutramine. From months 7 to 12, adolescents initially treated with sibutramine gained 0.8 kg (10.5 kg) with continued use of the medication, whereas those who switched from placebo to sibutramine lost an additional 1.3 kg (5.4 kg). Medication dose was reduced (n = 23) or discontinued (n = 10) to manage increases in blood pressure, pulse rate, or other symptoms.

Conclusions: The addition of sibutramine to a comprehensive behavioral program induced significantly more weight loss than did BT and placebo. Until more extensive safety and efficacy data are available, medications for weight loss should be used only on an experimental basis in adolescents and children.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Appetite Depressants / adverse effects
  • Appetite Depressants / therapeutic use*
  • Behavior Therapy*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Body Mass Index
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Cyclobutanes / adverse effects
  • Cyclobutanes / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hunger / drug effects
  • Male
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Pulse
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • Weight Loss


  • Appetite Depressants
  • Biomarkers
  • Cyclobutanes
  • sibutramine