Pharmacotherapy of depression
and mixed states in bipolar disorder

Montgomery SA, Schatzberg AF, Guelfi JD,
Kasper S, Nemeroff C, Swann A, Zajecka J
Imperial College School of Medicine,
London, UK
J Affect Disord 2000 Sep; 59 Suppl 1:S39-S56


The treatment of bipolar depression requires the resolution of depression and the establishment of mood stability. A basic problem is that the treatments used in treating bipolar depression were developed and proven effective for other disease states: antidepressants for unipolar depression, and mood stabilizers for mania. The panel addressed four unresolved questions regarding depression in relation to bipolar disorder: (1) the relative effectiveness of different antidepressant treatments; (2) the relative likelihood of mood destabilization with different antidepressant treatments; (3) the effectiveness and role of mood-stabilizing medicines as antidepressants; and (4) the optimal approach to mixed states. The selection of an antidepressant depends both on its relative lack of mania- or hypomania-provoking potential and on its effectiveness against bipolar depression. There is little definitive evidence distinguishing effectiveness of the major groups of antidepressive agents, so side-effect profiles and pharmacokinetics are major considerations. The underlying bipolar disorder should be treated with mood stabilizers started simultaneously with any antidepressive treatments. Lithium, divalproex sodium and carbamazepine have all been found to be helpful, to some extent, in treating bipolar depressive episodes as well as for long-term mood stabilization. There is little evidence for long-term benefits of antidepressive agents in bipolar disorder, and some evidence that they may destabilize the disorder. Therefore, in contrast to the long-term use of mood-stabilizers, antidepressant use is recommended on a temporary basis. The duration of antidepressant treatment is determined by past history in terms of liability for mood destabilization, and by the ability of the patient to tolerate gradual antidepressant discontinuation without return of depression. Mixed states, where symptoms of depression and mania coexist, are regarded as a predictor of relatively poor response to lithium, and divalproex has been found to be more effective. Carbamazepine may too be useful in mixed states. Most patients with mixed states in actual practice require combinations of mood stabilizers, though there is little controlled data regarding such co-prescription, especially from a long-term perspective.
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Bipolar Disorder FAQ
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Drugs which may cause mania
Mood stabilizers for bipolar disorder
Pramipexole and ropinirole for bipolars
Olanzapine/fluoxetine combo (Symbyax)

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