Prescription Drugs Cause Obesity: Stanford

Napa lupus patient's life is saved by gastric bypass surgery.

A Napa woman who was diagnosed with lupus when she was 12-years-old and subsequently suffered from drug-induced obesity underwent a life-saving gastric bypass surgery at Stanford Hospital & Clinics about a month ago.

And Stanford is now using the case of Jena Graves as an example to warn others that sometimes taking steroids to cure one problem, may lead other problems that actually can be worse.

Jena Graves, who is now 19, was a healthy and active girl when she was diagnosed with lupus seven years ago. The exclusive interview with Graves aired Tuesday at 11 p.m on NBC Bay Area.

According to Stanford, she was given high doses of a steroid drug that helped contain the disease and its symptoms but which also caused her to gain more than 150 pounds over the next five years. Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the human immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks healthy tissue.

According to the medical center, this is not a unique predicament, and millions of Americans suffer from drug-induced obesity, which creates additional physical and mental trouble for the people already dealing with these diseases and illnesses.

Her doctor at the time, gave her steroids to help battle her symptoms of lupus. But as a result, she started to gain weight. A lot of weight. As a result of her obesity, Graves who is 5 feet, 2inches tall, weighed 268 pounds at her heaviest and developed a number of other conditions and diseases.

“I felt uncomfortable going out in public. I felt people staring at me and heard them making comments. My friends slowly stopped contacting me,” Graves said in a statement. “While most people my age were dating and going to the prom, my life consisted of lab tests, and my closest friends were the nurses drawing my blood.”

Director of Bariatric surgery at Stanford Hospital & Clinics John Morton operated on Graves in May in order to reverse the effects of the drugs, and Graves has lost over 40 pounds since the surgery. She has also been able to stop taking a majority of the 30 medications she was on prior to surgery, according to Stanford Hospital.

“It was bad enough news that Jena was diagnosed with lupus, but then to become morbidly obese because of the medicine used to treat her disease was tragic for her future development,” Morton said. “I’ve seen this happen to a number of other patients — not just those taking steroids, but also those taking antidepressants and insulin. However, I am so pleased that we are able to provide Jena and patients like her with a procedure that can reverse obesity-related illnesses and therefore make it easier to manage underlying chronic illnesses."

Contact Us