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The armamentarium of treatments for bipolar disorder: a review of the literature

Lookup NU author(s): Dr David Cousins, Professor Allan Young


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To assess current pharmacotherapeutic options for bipolar disorder, with particular emphasis on the use of antipsychotic agents, Medline and EMBASE were searched between January 1980 and December 2005 using the keywords 'schizoaffective disorder' and 'bipolar disorder', combined with various antidepressants, antipsychotics, lithium or other mood stabilizers. English-language articles, review articles and original research articles were reviewed. Most data are available for the 'mood stabilizers' lithium and valproate. However, these agents have important limitations regarding their tolerability and efficacy in certain groups. Newer anticonvulsants, especially lamotrigine, have demonstrated efficacy across mood-symptom domains. Antidepressants are not generally favoured as monotherapy in patients with bipolar depression or schizoaffective disorder, due to their potential to induce switching to manic states. However, data are emerging for the efficacy of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for bipolar depression in combination with atypical antipsychotics. Atypical antipsychotics may also be used as monotherapy or in conjunction with mood stabilizers for the treatment of acute mania and for continuing maintenance therapy. The choice of antipsychotic may be influenced by the therapeutic situation; formulations that facilitate administration in the acute scenario can provide rapid tranquillization, whereas those that enhance compliance may have a place in maintenance therapy. Our results suggest a growing role for atypical antipsychotics in the treatment of bipolar disorder and further data are anticipated.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cousins DA, Young AH

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology

Year: 2007

Volume: 10

Issue: 3

Pages: 411-431

ISSN (print): 1461-1457

ISSN (electronic): 1469-5111


DOI: 10.1017/S1461145706007413