Prescribing practices of Indian psychiatrists in the treatment of bipolar disorder

Yc Janardhan Reddy, Venugopal Jhanwar, Rajesh Nagpal, M S Reddy, Nilesh Shah, Sanman Ghorpade, Sujay Kulkarni
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 2019 February 7, : 4867419826718

OBJECTIVE: The treatment of bipolar disorder is challenging because of its clinical complexity and availability of multiple treatment options, none of which are ideal mood stabilizers. This survey studies prescription practices of psychiatrists in India and their adherence to guidelines.

METHOD: In total, 500 psychiatrists randomly selected from the Indian Psychiatric Society membership directory were administered a face-to-face 22-item questionnaire pertaining to the management of bipolar disorder.

RESULTS: For acute mania, most practitioners preferred a combination of a mood stabilizer and an atypical antipsychotic to monotherapy. For acute depression, there was a preference for a combination of an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer over other alternatives. Electroconvulsive therapy was preferred in the treatment of severe episodes and to hasten the process of recovery. Approximately, 50% of psychiatrists prescribe maintenance treatment after the first bipolar episode, but maintenance therapy was rarely offered lifelong. While the majority (85%) of psychiatrists acknowledged referring to various clinical guidelines, their ultimate choice of treatment was also significantly determined by personal experience and reference to textbooks.

LIMITATIONS: The study did not study actual prescriptions. Hence, the responses to queries in the survey are indirect measures from which we have tried to understand the actual practices, and of course, these are susceptible to self-report and social-desirability biases. This was a cross-sectional study; therefore, temporal changes in responses could not be considered.

CONCLUSION: Overall, Indian psychiatrists seemed to broadly adhere to recommendations of clinical practice guidelines, but with some notable exceptions. The preference for antidepressants in treating depression is contrary to general restraint recommended by most guidelines. Therefore, the efficacy of antidepressants in treating bipolar depression in the context of Indian psychiatrists' practice needs to be studied systematically. Not initiating maintenance treatment early in the course of illness may have serious implications on the long-term outcome of bipolar disorder.


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