Background: Severe obesity is a complex, chronic disease affecting nearly 9% of adolescents in the U.S. Although the current mainstay of treatment is lifestyle therapy, pediatric clinical practice guidelines recommend the addition of adjunct anti-obesity medication (AOM), such as phentermine and topiramate. However, guidance regarding when adjunct AOM should be started and how AOM should be used is unclear. Furthermore, an inherent limitation of current treatment guidelines is their “one-size-fits-all” approach, which does not account for the heterogeneous nature of obesity and high degree of patient variability in response to all interventions. Methods: This paper describes the study design and methods of a sequential multiple assignment randomized trial (SMART), “SMART Use of Medications for the Treatment of Adolescent Severe Obesity.” The trial will examine 1) when to start AOM (specifically phentermine) in adolescents who are not responding to lifestyle therapy and 2) how to modify AOM when there is a sub-optimal response to the initial pharmacological intervention (specifically, for phentermine non-responders, is it better to add topiramate to phentermine or switch to topiramate monotherapy). Critically, participant characteristics that may differentially affect response to treatment will be assessed and evaluated as potential moderators of intervention efficacy. Conclusion: Data from this study will be used to inform the development of an adaptive intervention for the treatment of adolescent severe obesity that includes empirically-derived decision rules regarding when and how to use AOM. Future research will test this adaptive intervention against standard “one-size-fits-all” treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107444
JournalContemporary Clinical Trials
StatePublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Inc.


  • Adolescent
  • Lifestyle therapy
  • Obesity
  • Phentermine
  • Protocol
  • Topiramate


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