New research led by Dr Gurkiran Birdi and Dr Ian Maidment in the College of Health and Life Sciences at Aston University will explore ways of managing excessive weight gain in patients being treated with antipsychotics for mental health illnesses such as schizophrenia.
The project, known as RESOLVE and funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), will study non-pharmacological interventions for antipsychotic-induced weight gain in people living with severe mental illness (SMI) by working directly with patients to understand and explain how, why, for whom, and in what contexts non-pharmacological interventions could help service users to manage antipsychotic-induced weight gain.
Antipsychotics are widely used in the treatment of schizophrenia and other severe mental illnesses (SMI). Over the last 20 years, the first generation of antipsychotics has been replaced by the newer second generation of antipsychotics. There are over 220,000 people being treated for schizophrenia in the UK at any one point in time.
Up to 80% of people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are overweight or obese. Weight gains of up to 33kg have been reported with antipsychotics. This weight gain has devastating consequences: life expectancy is reduced by 20 years in people with schizophrenia, partly related to the consequences of this weight gain. Diabetes has been reported to be a major issue with second-generation antipsychotics.
In RESOLVE - which includes partners from University of East Anglia, Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham Universities, the NHS and the McPin Foundation - the researchers will combine literature what has been written about the subject. The team will also interview volunteers, both people who have suffered from the weight and healthcare staff involved to understand their lived experience of weight gain. We also want to find out what works to help manage weight.
At the end of the project, the team plans to develop guidance for service users and practitioners on the best ways to treat and manage weight gain.
Dr Ian Maidment, reader in clinical pharmacy and lead researcher, said: “Prior to moving to academia, I spent 20 years working in mental health services. This is a really important issue, I have seen patients literally “balloon” weight with their weight increasing from 80 to 120kg. We need to find better ways to help them.”
One member of the RESOLVE Lived Experience Advisory Group said: “The RESOLVE study could provide a tailored solution to my antipsychotic weight gain, that could benefit my unique needs as an individual. I have found that weight gain from taking anti-psychotics has been a real health problem. I find that this is often ignored or stigmatized by friends, family and healthcare professionals. Added to which there seems to be no currently available solution that works”.