Intranasal oxytocin versus placebo for hyperphagia and repetitive behaviors in children with Prader-Willi Syndrome: A randomized controlled pilot trial


Hollander E, Levine KG, Ferretti CJ, Freeman K, Doernberg E, Desilva N, Taylor BP

Scientific Notation:

Journal of Psychiatric Research

Publication Link:



The effects of intranasal oxytocin and placebo on hyperphagia and repetitive behaviors were compared in children and adolescents with Prader Willi Syndrome (PWS).


Children and adolescents with PWS were enrolled in an 8-week double-blind placebo-controlled intranasal oxytocin randomized trial. Twenty-three (23) subjects were assigned to oxytocin (N = 11) or placebo (N = 12). Hyperphagia was measured with the Hyperphagia Questionnaire (HQ), and repetitive behavior was measured with Repetitive Behavior Scale- Revised (RBS-R).


There were modest significant treatment by-time interactions indicating reduction in hyperphagia and repetitive behaviors across time for placebo but no reduction for oxytocin. Total HQ score showed a greater average reduction of 1.81 points/week for the placebo group vs. oxytocin, with maximum reduction at week 4. There were also greater reductions on HQ-Drive and HQ-Behavior subscales on placebo vs. oxytocin. RBS-R subscales followed similar patterns to the HQ, with a significantly greater reduction in sameness subscale behaviors (average 0.825 points/week) in the placebo group compared to the oxytocin group. Oxytocin was well tolerated, and the only adverse event that was both more common and possibly related to oxytocin vs. placebo was nocturia (n = 1 vs 0).


Placebo was associated with modest improvement in hyperphagia and repetitive behaviors in childhood PWS whereas intranasal oxytocin was not associated with improvement in these domains. More work is needed to understand the meaning and mechanism of these findings on hyperphagia and repetitive behaviors in PWS.

FPWR Grant:

Oxytocin vs. placebo for the treatment of hyperphagia in Prader-Willi syndrome