Bulimia nervosa treatment: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials

Int J Eat Disord. 2007 May;40(4):321-36. doi: 10.1002/eat.20372.


Objective: The RTI International-University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Evidence-based Practice Center systematically reviewed evidence on efficacy of treatment for bulimia nervosa (BN), harms associated with treatments, factors associated with treatment efficacy, and differential outcome by sociodemographic characteristics.

Method: We searched six major databases published from 1980 to September 2005 in all languages against a priori inclusion/exclusion criteria; we focused on eating, psychiatric or psychological, and biomarker outcomes.

Results: Forty-seven studies of medication only, behavioral interventions only, and medication plus behavioral interventions for adults or adolescents met our inclusion criteria. Fluoxetine (60 mg/day) decreases the core symptoms of binge eating and purging and associated psychological features in the short term. Cognitive behavioral therapy reduces core behavioral and psychological features in the short and long term.

Conclusion: Evidence for medication or behavioral treatment for BN is strong, for self-help is weak; for harms related to medication is strong but either weak or nonexistent for other interventions; and evidence for differential outcome by sociodemographic factors is nonexistent. Attention to sample size, standardization of outcome measures, attrition, and reporting of abstinence from target behaviors are required. Longer follow-up intervals, innovative treatments, and attention to sociodemographic factors would enhance the literature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bulimia Nervosa / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic