Pharmacological interventions for geriatric cachexia: A narrative review of the literature

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Objective: The objective of this review was to investigate the range of pharmacological interventions that have been studied for treatment of geriatric cachexia, and to evaluate their effect on selected clinical outcomes in this population. Methods: Databases including Medline and Cochrane Central register of Controlled Trials were searched up to March 2010 with search terms including "cache*", "intervention", "megestrol acetate" and "cytokine inhibitors". Studies investigating subjects with mean age <60y or disease-related cachexia were excluded. Outcomes assessed were weight or BMI, body composition, appetite and laboratory parameters indicative of cachexia. Results: Fifteen publications met the selection criteria, reporting on ten studies. Seven studies investigated use of megestrol acetate (MA): Two randomised controlled trials, one case control study, two pre-test/post-test studies and two retrospective chart reviews. Weight/BMI was common amongst outcomes and these studies showed an improvement in weight compared with baseline. MA studies which investigated body composition, appetite and/or laboratory parameters provided some evidence for improvement in these outcomes. Three randomised controlled trials investigated the use of other interventions: Ghrelin, growth hormone and vitamin supplementations. All demonstrated a significant increase in lean body mass. The only other outcome of interest in these three trials was weight in one study with a significant increase demonstrated. Conclusion: Little investigation has been conducted in this population and the diagnosis of cachexia is problematic however these trials provide preliminary evidence for beneficial outcomes in older adults likely to have cachexia. Further high quality adequately powered prospective studies are necessary to provide effective treatment for geriatric cachexia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-154
Number of pages7
JournalThe Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


  • Cachexia
  • Geriatrics
  • Nutrition
  • Review
  • Therapeutics
  • Treatment outcome


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