Pharmacotherapy in anorexia nervosa: A Danish nation-wide register-based study

Loa Clausen*, Birgitte D. Semark, Janne Helverskov, Cynthia M. Bulik, Liselotte V. Petersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Objective: No medications have been indicated for the treatment of anorexia nervosa (AN). Nonetheless, individuals with AN are frequently treated pharmacologically. The present study maps nationwide pharmacotherapy two years before to five years after first AN diagnosis. Methods: We identified all medication prescriptions in a national register-based study of patients with a first diagnosis of AN between 1998 and 2011, and age and gender matched controls (1:10). Medication classes were compared using odds ratios (OR) between patients and controls; between patients below and above 15 years; between patients with and without comorbidity; and between those diagnosed before or after 2005. Results: The odds of pharmacotherapy were increased in patients for all classes of medication except a small residual class. Highest odds were found for alimentary (OR 2.8, p < 0.001) and psychopharmacological (OR 5.5, p < 0.001) medication. The former peaked one year prior to first diagnosis and the latter one year after. Older patients had increased risk of almost all medication classes with cardiovascular medication showing a fivefold OR (p < 0.001). Patients with psychiatric comorbidity had a threefold OR for psychopharmacological medication (p < 0.001) compared to patients without psychiatric comorbidity. Calendar year showed few and small differences. Conclusion: The extended use of all medication classes both prior to and after first diagnosis of AN highlights the severe cause and complexity of AN. The results encourage clinical caution of pharmacotherapy, highlight the need for pharmacotherapy guidelines for AN, and emphasize the urgency of research in pharmacotherapy in AN.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111077
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Clinical pharmacology
  • Early detection
  • Epidemiology
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Denmark/epidemiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Humans
  • Anorexia Nervosa/drug therapy


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