Text: Céline Stegmüller

Medication and weight gain

New practices, new areas of expertise: zoom on a research project carried out within the Department of Psychiatry at the Lausanne University Hospital.

“The life expectancy of psychiatric patients is 10 to 20 years less than the general population,” explains Chin Bin Eap, director of the Unit of Pharmacogenetics and Clinical Psychopharmacology at Lausanne University Hospital. One of the main causes is the use of second-generation antipsychotics. These medications often cause cholesterol and weight gain problems, which in turn lead to cardiovascular disease.

“The analyses of psychiatric pharmacologists at the Lausanne University Hospital indicate that patients being treated with these molecules experience a 5% increase in weight or cholesterol levels after the first month. This means patients could experience significant weight gain or have high cholesterol levels after one year.”

In response to this data, the Psychiatry Service issued guidelines in 2007 to monitor the side effects of psychotropic drugs. As a result, a wide range of factors, including the patient’s cholesterol panel, waist circumference, and weight are measured at regular intervals as soon as treatment begins.

“Tracking these predictive clinical values lets us intervene quickly,” says Alessandra Solida-Tozzi, senior physician in charge of the Minkowski section at the General Psychiatry Service. “The medical team can then provide recommendations about healthy life habits or change the patient’s prescription.” The next step in the research will focus on detecting indicators more precisely and developing clinical programmes aimed at minimising the risks associated with psychotropic molecules.



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