The goal was to see if over the course of one year fluoxetine could prevent them from relapsing and losing the weight. In addition to receiving either the study medication or the placebo, all study participants also received a form of psychotherapy -- cognitive behavioral therapy.
While the results were disappointing, Prozac may not be entirely useless for treating eating disorders.
"Studies always look at groups of patients, not individuals, to determine if on average there will be benefit to patients," he said, explaining that some patients may benefit from taking it, although, on average, Prozac was no better than the placebo for preventing anorexia nervosa.
And, regardless, antidepressant therapy is not meant to be used alone, said Dr. Mae Sokol, a pediatrician and psychiatrist at Creighton University and medical director of the eating disorders program at Children's Hospital in Omaha.
"Medicine is only an adjunct to the rest of treatment, including dietary management and psychotherapy. Hopefully, patients will discuss this [study] with their doctors and make decisions on an individual basis," she said.
Walsh agreed, saying "studies need to be interpreted by patients and their physicians on a case-by-case basis. There's a clinical rule that says if a patient is doing well, change nothing."
As for his patients, he said, "I would not add a medication [to their current therapy] because there is no evidence it works."