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Prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase IIa clinical trial on the effects of an estrogen-progestin combination as add-on to inpatient psychotherapy in adult female patients suffering from anorexia nervosa.

BMC Psychiatry 2018 April 11
BACKGROUND: There is a need for novel treatment approaches in anorexia nervosa (AN). While there is broad knowledge with regard to altered appetite regulation and neuropsychological deficits in AN patients on the one hand, and the effects of estrogen replacement upon neuropsychological performance in healthy subjects on the other, up to now, no study has implemented estrogen replacement in AN patients, in order to examine its effects upon AN-associated and general psychopathology, neuropsychological performance and concentrations of peptide components of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and within appetite-regulating circuits.

METHODS: This is a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial on the effects of a 10-week oral estrogen replacement (combination of ethinyl estradiol 0.03 mg and dienogest 2 mg) in adult female AN patients. The primary target is the assessment of the impact of sex hormone replacement upon neuropsychological performance by means of a neuropsychological test battery consisting of a test for verbal intelligence, the Trail making test A and B, a Go/No-go paradigm with food cues and the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test. Secondary targets include a) the examination of safety and tolerability (as mirrored by the number of adverse events), b) assessments of the impact upon eating disorder-specific psychopathology by means of the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire (EDE-Q) and the Eating Disorder Inventory-2 (EDI-2), c) the influence upon anxiety using the State-Trait-Anxiety Inventory (STAI), d) assessments of plasma cortisol levels during a dexamethasone-suppression test and appetite-regulating plasma peptides (ghrelin, leptin, insulin, glucose) during an oral glucose tolerance test and, e) a possible impact upon the prescription of antidepressants.

DISCUSSION: This is the first study of its kind. There are no evidence-based psychopharmacological options for the treatment of AN. Thus, the results of this clinical trial may have a relevant impact on future treatment regimens. Novel approaches are necessary to improve rates of AN symptom remission and increase the rapidity of treatment response. Identifying the underlying biological (e.g. neuroendocrinological) factors that maintain AN or may predict patient treatment response represent critical future research directions. Continued efforts to incorporate novel pharmacological aspects into treatments will increase access to evidence-based care and help reduce the burden of AN.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: European Clinical Trials Database, EudraCT number 2015-004184-36, registered November 2015; Identifier: NCT03172533 , retrospectively registered May 2017.

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