Pharmacological interventions for prevention of weight gain in people with schizophrenia

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2022 Oct 3;10(10):CD013337. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD013337.pub2.


Background: Antipsychotic-induced weight gain is an extremely common problem in people with schizophrenia and is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Adjunctive pharmacological interventions may be necessary to help manage antipsychotic-induced weight gain. This review splits and updates a previous Cochrane Review that focused on both pharmacological and behavioural approaches to this problem.

Objectives: To determine the effectiveness of pharmacological interventions for preventing antipsychotic-induced weight gain in people with schizophrenia.

Search methods: The Cochrane Schizophrenia Information Specialist searched Cochrane Schizophrenia's Register of Trials on 10 February 2021. There are no language, date, document type, or publication status limitations for inclusion of records in the register.

Selection criteria: We included all randomised controlled trials (RCTs) that examined any adjunctive pharmacological intervention for preventing weight gain in people with schizophrenia or schizophrenia-like illnesses who use antipsychotic medications.

Data collection and analysis: At least two review authors independently extracted data and assessed the quality of included studies. For continuous outcomes, we combined mean differences (MD) in endpoint and change data in the analysis. For dichotomous outcomes, we calculated risk ratios (RR). We assessed risk of bias for included studies and used GRADE to judge certainty of evidence and create summary of findings tables. The primary outcomes for this review were clinically important change in weight, clinically important change in body mass index (BMI), leaving the study early, compliance with treatment, and frequency of nausea. The included studies rarely reported these outcomes, so, post hoc, we added two new outcomes, average endpoint/change in weight and average endpoint/change in BMI.

Main results: Seventeen RCTs, with a total of 1388 participants, met the inclusion criteria for the review. Five studies investigated metformin, three topiramate, three H2 antagonists, three monoamine modulators, and one each investigated monoamine modulators plus betahistine, melatonin and samidorphan. The comparator in all studies was placebo or no treatment (i.e. standard care alone). We synthesised all studies in a quantitative meta-analysis. Most studies inadequately reported their methods of allocation concealment and blinding of participants and personnel. The resulting risk of bias and often small sample sizes limited the overall certainty of the evidence. Only one reboxetine study reported the primary outcome, number of participants with clinically important change in weight. Fewer people in the treatment condition experienced weight gains of more than 5% and more than 7% of their bodyweight than those in the placebo group (> 5% weight gain RR 0.27, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.11 to 0.65; 1 study, 43 participants; > 7% weight gain RR 0.24, 95% CI 0.07 to 0.83; 1 study, 43 participants; very low-certainty evidence). No studies reported the primary outcomes, 'clinically important change in BMI', or 'compliance with treatment'. However, several studies reported 'average endpoint/change in body weight' or 'average endpoint/change in BMI'. Metformin may be effective in preventing weight gain (MD -4.03 kg, 95% CI -5.78 to -2.28; 4 studies, 131 participants; low-certainty evidence); and BMI increase (MD -1.63 kg/m2, 95% CI -2.96 to -0.29; 5 studies, 227 participants; low-certainty evidence). Other agents that may be slightly effective in preventing weight gain include H2 antagonists such as nizatidine, famotidine and ranitidine (MD -1.32 kg, 95% CI -2.09 to -0.56; 3 studies, 248 participants; low-certainty evidence) and monoamine modulators such as reboxetine and fluoxetine (weight: MD -1.89 kg, 95% CI -3.31 to -0.47; 3 studies, 103 participants; low-certainty evidence; BMI: MD -0.66 kg/m2, 95% CI -1.05 to -0.26; 3 studies, 103 participants; low-certainty evidence). Topiramate did not appear effective in preventing weight gain (MD -4.82 kg, 95% CI -9.99 to 0.35; 3 studies, 168 participants; very low-certainty evidence). For all agents, there was no difference between groups in terms of individuals leaving the study or reports of nausea. However, the results of these outcomes are uncertain given the very low-certainty evidence.

Authors' conclusions: There is low-certainty evidence to suggest that metformin may be effective in preventing weight gain. Interpretation of this result and those for other agents, is limited by the small number of studies, small sample size, and short study duration. In future, we need studies that are adequately powered and with longer treatment durations to further evaluate the efficacy and safety of interventions for managing weight gain.

Trial registration: NCT00176449.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antipsychotic Agents* / adverse effects
  • Betahistine / therapeutic use
  • Famotidine / therapeutic use
  • Fluoxetine / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Melatonin* / therapeutic use
  • Metformin* / therapeutic use
  • Nausea / drug therapy
  • Nizatidine / therapeutic use
  • Ranitidine / therapeutic use
  • Reboxetine / therapeutic use
  • Schizophrenia* / drug therapy
  • Schizophrenia* / prevention & control
  • Topiramate / therapeutic use
  • Weight Gain


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Fluoxetine
  • Topiramate
  • Famotidine
  • Ranitidine
  • Metformin
  • Reboxetine
  • Melatonin
  • Nizatidine
  • Betahistine

Associated data