BACKGROUND: People with severe mental illness are two to three times more likely to be overweight or have obesity than the general population and this is associated with significant morbidity and premature mortality. Liraglutide 3 mg is a once daily injectable GLP-1 receptor agonist that is licensed for the treatment of obesity in the general population and has the potential to be used in people with severe mental illness.
AIMS: To record the expectations and experiences of people with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorders or first episode psychosis taking daily liraglutide 3 mg injections in a clinical trial for the treatment of obesity. To seek the views of healthcare professionals about the feasibility of delivering the intervention in routine care.
METHODS: Qualitative interviews were undertaken with a purposive sub-sample of people with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorders or first episode psychosis with overweight or obesity who were treated with a daily injection of liraglutide 3 mg in a double-blinded, randomised controlled pilot study evaluating the use of liraglutide for the treatment of obesity. Interviews were also conducted with healthcare professionals.
RESULTS: Seventeen patient participants were interviewed. Sixteen took part in the baseline interview, eight completed both baseline and follow-up interviews, and one took part in follow-up interview only. Mean interview duration was thirteen minutes (range 5-37 min). Despite reservations by some participants about the injections before the study, most of those who completed the trial reported no challenges in the timing of or administering the injections. Key themes included despondency regarding prior medication associated weight gain, quality of life impact of weight loss, practical aspects of participation including materials received and clinic attendance. Healthcare professionals reported challenges with recruitment, however, overall it was a positive experience for them and for participants.
CONCLUSION: Liraglutide appears to be an acceptable therapy for obesity in this population with limited side effects. The quality of life benefits realised by several intervention participants reinforce the biomedical benefits of achieved weight loss.