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RESEARCH: New Drugs Show Promise for Treating Bipolar Mania

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(June 5, 2013) The current “gold standard” for treating bipolar disorder is lithium, but a review of clinical research has found that other drugs may be more effective for acute episodes of mania without the side effects of lithium (“New drug developments for bipolar mania,” Psychiatric Times, Dec. 2012).

bipolar_maniaLithium has been associated with negative side effects, including sedation and weight gain, which can impact adherence to the treatment. A meta-analysis of recent clinical findings found lithium to be one of several medications that were more effective than placebo for mania. Another meta-analysis concluded that some of the alternative medications “were significantly more effective than mood stabilizers” in bipolar treatment.

“Because strong evidence exists for the use of lithium . . . as a maintenance treatment for BP, antipsychotics may be increasingly used to treat the acute manic phase of the disorder and mood stabilizers (particularly lithium) may be used for long-term treatment,” the authors suggested.

With research for new mental illness medications in serious decline, identification of what the authors call “novel and more effective treatments” – including the application of existing medications to new situations – is encouraging.

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