Pharmacological Approaches for Management of Child and Adolescent Obesity

Amar Kanekar, Manoj Sharma


Overweight and obesity among children and adolescents continue to be a global public health epidemic. Current national data on childhood and adolescent obesity show alarming statistics of overweight and obese children and adolescents. This epidemic runs across various continents and affects various ethnic populations. The current weight management practices involve dietary modification, behavioral change therapies involving exercise, pharmacological therapy and surgical intervention. The purpose of this current review is to focus on pharmacological therapy i.e. role of sibutramine and orlistat in childhood and adolescent weight management. An open search of PUBMED database was made with search ‘key words’ such as ‘orlistat’ or ‘sibutramine’ or “pharmacological approaches” and “child obesity” and “adolescent obesity”. This yielded a total of 20 articles. All of these articles have been summarized in the current review. Sibutramine functions by promoting satiety and increases energy expenditure by inhibiting reuptake of noradrenaline and serotonin. Most of the studies, reviews and trials conducted using sibutramine among adolescents and children show limited short-term efficacy. The long-term effects of sibutramine use are not yet studied due to the severity of its side-effects profile. Orlistat was approved by Food and Drug Administration for adolescent weight reduction. Despite its approval, it has a limited role in adolescent and pediatric obesity reduction due to the purported malabsorption of fat soluble vitamins and its side-effect profile. Obesity and adolescent weight management in present times mainly deals with dietary modification with superadded behavioral therapies promoting exercise. There is insufficient evidence as of now if these alone would cause adequate weight reduction and weight maintenance. Pharmacotherapy i.e use of drugs like sibutramine and orlistat has a limited role in the current fight against childhood and adolescent obesity. Extreme side-effects, close monitoring and lack of long-term studies involving these drugs, suggest questionable efficacy in current times. Future research studies involving pharmacological agents need to not only have immense scientific rigor during preliminary analyses but should also translate their efficacy in practical and clinical settings.



Obesity; Overweight; Adolescents; Pharmacological; sibutramine; Orlistat

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