People with cancer and other diseases often lose excessive amounts of weight due to lack of appetite. If you have one of these conditions, you can't afford to lose weight because you need protein and nutrients to recover from or to stabilize your disease. Several prescription drugs can stimulate the appetite, and others are undergoing testing in clinical trials.
Megestrol acetate, sold as Megace, is a type of progesterone sold as an appetite stimulant and as a palliative treatment for advanced breast and endometrial cancer. Megace has been shown to increase appetite in people with advanced cancer, but it may not help people with appetite loss caused by HIV or other diseases, according to Caresearch. Megace may increase your risk of developing blood clots and inflammation in the veins called thromboembolitis. Headache occurred in 10 percent of people taking the drug in clinical trials and 8 percent reported hypertension, an increase in blood pressure.
Medroxyprogesterone Acetate is a synthetic form of progesterone sold as Provera. The medication helps regulate menstrual cycles and also improves appetite in patients with cancer, according to Caresearch. There can be several side effects to Provera, which is a steroid hormone. It can make you nauseated in the first few weeks of treatment, and you may also retain fluid, have headaches, or feel dizzy, anxious or sleepy.
Dronabinole, sold as Marinole, is the synthetic version of cannabis, the main substance found in marijuana. Donabinole, like cannabis, can increase appetite and also decreases nausea and vomiting, which makes it helpful for use in cancer patients. In one study of patients undergoing chemotherapy reported by the University of New Mexico, Marinole improved appetite by 38 percent, compared to 8 percent of patients given placebos. Unlike marijuana, Marinole is approved for use in cancer treatment by the Food and Drug Administration. Don't drive machinery or do other tasks requiring concentration while taking Marinole until you know how the drug affects you.
Dexamethasone, a corticosteroid, can improve appetite if you have cancer. While dexamethasone and Megace have similar improvement rates for appetite loss, dexamethasone has more severe side effects, the University of New Mexico warns. Dexamethasone can cause muscle weakness and other muscle changes. Because of the potential for more serious side effects, dexamethasone may be reserved for short-term use in people with poor prognosis.