Antipsychotic medications in the treatment of bipolar disorder

Anton A Subuh Surja, Rebecca L Tamas, Rif S El-Mallakh
Current Drug Targets 2006, 7 (9): 1217-24
Antipsychotic medications have been used to treat acute phases, and prevent relapses in, bipolar illness since their introduction into psychiatric practice. With the introduction of second generation antipsychotic medications, there has been renewed interest in the utility of this class of medications in managing manic-depression. It appears that all antipsychotic agents investigated have a potent acute antimanic property. This has been shown both in monotherapy and in combination with traditional mood stabilizing medications. The first generation antipsychotics appeared to worsen depression or induce a depressive-like state, but the second generation agents do not have this property and may have some antidepressant properties in bipolar patients. There is a dearth of controlled long term studies, but in open studies, both first and second generation agents appear to have a beneficial effect. Second generation antipsychotic agents appear to be a useful tool that may benefit bipolar patients. Adverse consequences of this group of medications appear to be the major limiting factors to their use. Antipsychotic medications play a very important role in the treatment of bipolar illness. This has become especially true since the introduction of second generation agents. There is a wealth of data documenting the use of these agents in bipolar mania. There are fewer studies examining relapse prevention. Finally, there are a small number of interesting studies suggesting utility in bipolar depression. This paper will critically review available randomized clinical trials utilizing antipsychotic agents in bipolar disorder.

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