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1.  Aripiprazole in the Maintenance Treatment of Bipolar Disorder: A Critical Review of the Evidence and Its Dissemination into the Scientific Literature 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(5):e1000434.
A systematic search of the literature reveals limited evidence to support use of aripiprazole, a second-generation antipsychotic medication, in maintenance therapy of bipolar disorder, despite widespread use.
Aripiprazole, a second-generation antipsychotic medication, has been increasingly used in the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder and received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this indication in 2005. Given its widespread use, we sought to critically review the evidence supporting the use of aripiprazole in the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder and examine how that evidence has been disseminated in the scientific literature.
Methods and Findings
We systematically searched multiple databases to identify double-blind, randomized controlled trials of aripiprazole for the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder while excluding other types of studies, such as open-label, acute, and adjunctive studies. We then used a citation search to identify articles that cited these trials and rated the quality of their citations. Our evidence search protocol identified only two publications, both describing the results of a single trial conducted by Keck et al., which met criteria for inclusion in this review. We describe four issues that limit the interpretation of that trial as supporting the use of aripiprazole for bipolar maintenance: (1) insufficient duration to demonstrate maintenance efficacy; (2) limited generalizability due to its enriched sample; (3) possible conflation of iatrogenic adverse effects of abrupt medication discontinuation with beneficial effects of treatment; and (4) a low overall completion rate. Our citation search protocol yielded 80 publications that cited the Keck et al. trial in discussing the use of aripiprazole for bipolar maintenance. Of these, only 24 (30%) mentioned adverse events reported and four (5%) mentioned study limitations.
A single trial by Keck et al. represents the entirety of the literature on the use of aripiprazole for the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder. Although careful review identifies four critical limitations to the trial's interpretation and overall utility, the trial has been uncritically cited in the subsequent scientific literature.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Bipolar disorder (manic depression) is a serious, long-term mental illness that affects about 1% of adults at some time during their life. It usually develops in late adolescence or early adulthood and affects men and women from all backgrounds. People with bipolar disorder experience wild mood swings that interfere with daily life and damage relationships. During “manic” episodes, which can last several months if untreated, they may feel euphoric (“high”), energetic, or irritable. They may be full of ambitious plans, feel creative, and spend money recklessly. They can also have psychotic symptoms—they may see or hear things that are not there. During depressive episodes, affected individuals may feel helpless, worthless, and suicidal. Treatments for bipolar disorder include drugs to stabilize mood swings (for example, lithium and anticonvulsant medications), antidepressants to treat depressive episodes, and antipsychotic drugs to treat manic episodes. Psychotherapy can also help and patients can be taught to recognize the signs of approaching manic or depressive episodes and the triggers for these episodes.
Why Was This Study Done?
Treatment of bipolar disorder is divided into three phases: acute treatment lasting about 2 months to achieve remission, continuance treatment lasting from months 2 through 6 to prevent relapse, and long-term maintenance treatment to prevent recurrence. Second-generation (atypical) antipsychotics are widely used for acute treatment of manic episodes but are also used for maintenance treatment. For example, the atypical antipsychotic aripiprazole, which gained US approval for this indication in 2005, is now a popular choice among clinicians for treating bipolar disorder. But how much evidence is there to support aripiprazole's use in the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder? Here, the researchers systematically search the published literature for double-blind randomized controlled trials of aripiprazole for this indication, critically analyze the quality of these trials, and undertake a citation search to investigate how the results of these trials have been disseminated in the scientific literature. In double-blind randomized controlled trials, patients are randomly assigned to receive a test drug or a control (generally, placebo), and the effects of these drugs compared; patients in the trial, and physicians administering treatments, would not know who is receiving the test drug or control until the trial is completed.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers' search for reports of double-blind randomized controlled trials of aripiprazole for the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder using predefined criteria identified only two publications, both describing a single trial—the Keck trial. Critical review of this trial identified four issues that limit its interpretation for supporting aripiprazole as a maintenance therapy: the trial was too short to demonstrate maintenance efficacy; all the trial participants had responded well to aripiprazole as an acute treatment so the generalizability of the trial's results was limited; the trial design meant that some of the apparent beneficial treatment results could have reflected the adverse effects of abrupt medication discontinuation in the control group; and the trial had a low completion rate. The researchers' citation search identified 80 publications that cited the Keck trial in discussions of the use of aripiprazole for maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder. Only a quarter of these papers presented any numerical data from the trial, only a third mentioned any of the reported adverse events, and only four papers mentioned the trial's limitations.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This evaluation of the evidence base supporting the use of aripiprazole for the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder shows that the justification for this practice relies on the results of one published trial. Moreover, the methodology and reporting of this trial mean that its results cannot easily be generalized to inform the treatment of most patients with bipolar disorder. Worryingly, the researchers' citation search indicates that the Keck trial has been cited uncritically in the ensuing scientific literature. Although the unique features of bipolar disorder make it hard to undertake controlled studies of treatment options, the researchers express concern that “the publication and apparently uncritical acceptance of this trial may be diverting patients away from more effective treatments”.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Mental Health has detailed information on bipolar disorder, including an Easy to Read booklet (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information on all aspects of bipolar disorder
The UK charity Mind has information on bipolar disorder and provides links to other useful organizations
MedlinePlus has links to further information on bipolar disorder (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC3086871  PMID: 21559324
2.  Minocycline and aspirin in the treatment of bipolar depression: a protocol for a proof-of-concept, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, 2×2 clinical trial 
BMJ Open  2012;2(1):e000643.
New medication classes are needed to improve treatment effectiveness in the depressed phase of bipolar disorder (BD). Extant evidence suggests that BD is characterised by neural changes such as dendritic remodelling and glial and neuronal cell loss. These changes have been hypothesised to result from chronic inflammation. The principal aims of the proposed research is to evaluate the antidepressant efficacy in bipolar depression of minocycline, a drug with neuroprotective and immune-modulating properties, and of aspirin, at doses expected to selectively inhibit cyclooxygenase 1 (COX-1).
Methods and analysis
120 outpatients between 18 and 55 years of age, who meet DSM-IV-TR criteria for BD (type I or II) and for a current major depressive episode will be recruited to take part in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, proof-of-concept clinical trial following a 2×2 design. As adjuncts to existing treatment, subjects will be randomised to receive one of the four treatment combinations: placebo-minocycline plus placebo-aspirin, active-minocycline plus placebo-aspirin, placebo-minocycline plus active-aspirin or active-minocycline plus active-aspirin. The dose of minocycline and aspirin is 100 mg twice daily and 81 mg twice daily, respectively. Antidepressant response will be evaluated by assessing changes in the Montgomery–Asberg Depression Rating Scale scores between baseline and the end of the 6-week trial. As secondary outcome measures, the anti-inflammatory effects of minocycline and aspirin will be tested by measuring pre-treatment and post-treatment levels of C reactive protein and inflammatory cytokines.
Ethics and dissemination
Minocycline has been widely used as an antibiotic in doses up to 400 mg/day. Low-dose aspirin has been safely used on a worldwide scale for its role as an antithrombotic and thrombolytic. The study progress will be overseen by a Data, Safety and Monitoring Board, which will meet once every 6 months. Results of the study will be published in peer-reviewed publications.
Trial registration number
Clinical NCT01429272.
Article summary
Article focus
Clinical trial testing the efficacy of aspirin and/or minocycline in the treatment of bipolar depression.
Key messages
Extant evidence suggests that mood disorders are associated with inflammation. Aspirin and minocycline exert anti-inflammatory effects and have shown promise in the treatment of major depressive disorder.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The first study to assess the efficacy of the separate and combined effects of aspirin and minocycline in the treatment of bipolar depression. Aspirin and minocycline will be used to augment conventional treatments in type I bipolar disorder patients, potentially reducing statistical power.
PMCID: PMC3289990  PMID: 22357572
3.  A Randomized Add-on Trial of an N-methyl-d-aspartate Antagonist in Treatment-Resistant Bipolar Depression 
Archives of general psychiatry  2010;67(8):793-802.
Existing therapies for bipolar depression have a considerable lag of onset of action. Pharmacological strategies that produce rapid antidepressant effects—for instance, within a few hours or days—would have an enormous impact on patient care and public health.
To determine whether an N-methyl-d-aspartate–receptor antagonist produces rapid antidepressant effects in subjects with bipolar depression.
A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover, add-on study conducted from October 2006 to June 2009.
Mood Disorders Research Unit at the National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
Eighteen subjects with DSM-IV bipolar depression (treatment-resistant).
Subjects maintained at therapeutic levels of lithium or valproate received an intravenous infusion of either ketamine hydrochloride (0.5 mg/kg) or placebo on 2 test days 2 weeks apart. The Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale was used to rate subjects at baseline and at 40, 80, 110, and 230 minutes and on days 1, 2, 3, 7, 10, and 14 postinfusion.
Main Outcome Measures
Change in Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale primary efficacy measure scores.
Within 40 minutes, depressive symptoms significantly improved in subjects receiving ketamine compared with placebo (d=0.52, 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.28-0.76); this improvement remained significant through day 3. The drug difference effect size was largest at day 2 (d=0.80, 95% CI, 0.55-1.04). Seventy-one percent of subjects responded to ketamine and 6% responded to placebo at some point during the trial. One subject receiving ketamine and 1 receiving placebo developed manic symptoms. Ketamine was generally well tolerated; the most common adverse effect was dissociative symptoms, only at the 40-minute point.
In patients with treatment-resistant bipolar depression, robust and rapid antidepressant effects resulted from a single intravenous dose of an N-methyl-d-aspartate antagonist.
Trial Registration Identifier: NCT00088699
PMCID: PMC3000408  PMID: 20679587
4.  Adjunctive long-acting risperidone in patients with bipolar disorder who relapse frequently and have active mood symptoms 
BMC Psychiatry  2011;11:171.
The objective of this exploratory analysis was to characterize efficacy and onset of action of a 3-month treatment period with risperidone long-acting injection (RLAI), adjunctive to an individual's treatment regimen, in subjects with symptomatic bipolar disorder who relapsed frequently and had significant symptoms of mania and/or depression.
Subjects with bipolar disorder with ≥4 mood episodes in the past 12 months entered the open-label stabilization phase preceding a placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Subjects with significant depressive or manic/mixed symptoms at baseline were analyzed. Significant depressive symptoms were defined as Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) ≥16 and Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) < 16; manic/mixed symptoms were YMRS ≥16 with any MADRS score. Subjects received open-label RLAI (25-50 mg every 2 weeks) for 16 weeks, adjunctive to a subject's individualized treatment for bipolar disorder (mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and/or anxiolytics). Clinical status was evaluated with the Clinical Global Impressions of Bipolar Disorder-Severity (CGI-BP-S) scale and changes on the MADRS and YMRS scales. Within-group changes were evaluated using paired t tests; categorical differences were assessed using Fisher exact test. No adjustment was made for multiplicity.
162 subjects who relapsed frequently met criteria for significant mood symptoms at open-label baseline; 59/162 (36.4%) had depressive symptoms, 103/162 (63.6%) had manic/mixed symptoms. Most subjects (89.5%) were receiving ≥1 medication for bipolar disorder before enrollment. Significant improvements were observed for the total population on the CGI-BP-S, MADRS, and YMRS scales (p < .001 vs. baseline, all variables). Eighty-two (53.3%) subjects achieved remission at the week 16 LOCF end point. The subpopulation with depressive symptoms at open-label baseline experienced significant improvement on the CGI-BP-S and MADRS scales (p < .001 vs. baseline, all variables). Subjects with manic/mixed symptoms at baseline had significant improvements on the CGI-BP-S and YMRS scales (p < .001 vs. baseline, all variables). No unexpected tolerability findings were observed.
Exploratory analysis of changes in overall clinical status and depression/mania symptoms in subjects with symptomatic bipolar disorder who relapse frequently showed improvements in each of these areas after treatment with RLAI, adjunctive to a subject's individualized treatment. Prospective controlled studies are needed to confirm these findings.
PMCID: PMC3219580  PMID: 22034906
5.  Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder 
Executive Summary
This review was conducted to assess the effectiveness of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD).
The Technology
rTMS is a noninvasive way to stimulate nerve cells in areas of the brain. During rTMS, an electrical current passes through a wire coil placed over the scalp. The current induces a magnetic field that produces an electrical field in the brain that then causes nerve cells to depolarize, resulting in the stimulation or disruption of brain activity.
Researchers have investigated rTMS as an option to treat MDD, as an add-on to drug therapy, and, in particular, as an alternative to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for patients with treatment-resistant depression.
The advantages of rTMS over ECT for patients with severe refractory depression are that general anesthesia is not needed, it is an outpatient procedure, it requires less energy, the simulation is specific and targeted, and convulsion is not required. The advantages of rTMS as an add-on treatment to drug therapy may include hastening of the clinical response when used with antidepressant drugs.
Review Strategy
The Medical Advisory Secretariat used its standard search strategy to locate international health technology assessments and English-language journal articles published from January 1996 to March 2004.
Summary of Findings
Some early meta-analyses suggested rTMS might be effective for the treatment of MDD (for treatment-resistant MDD and as an add-on treatment to drug therapy for patients not specifically defined as treatment resistant). There were, however, several crucial methodological limitations in the included studies that were not critically assessed. These are discussed below.
Recent meta-analyses (including 2 international health technology assessments) have done evidence-based critical analyses of studies that have assessed rTMS for MDD. The 2 most recent health technology assessments (from the Oxford Cochrane Collaboration and the Norwegian Centre for Health Technology Assessment) concluded that there is no evidence that rTMS is effective for the treatment of MDD, either as compared with a placebo for patients with treatment-resistant or nontreatment-resistant MDD, or as an alternative to ECT for patients with treatment-resistant MDD. This mainly due to the poor quality of the studies.
The major methodological limitations were identified in older meta-analyses, recent health technology assessments, and the most recently published trials (Level 2–4 evidence) on the effectiveness of rTMS for MDD are discussed below.
Small sample size was a limitation acknowledged by many of the authors. There was also a lack of a priori sample size calculation or justification.
Biased randomization may have been a problem. Generally, the published reports lacked detailed information on the method of allocation concealment used. This is important because it is impossible to determine if there was a possible influence (direct or indirect) in the allocation of the patients to different treatment groups.
The trials were single blind, evaluated by external blinded assessors, rather than double blind. Double blinding is more robust, because neither the participants nor the investigators know which participants are receiving the active treatment and which are getting a placebo. Those administering rTMS, however, cannot be blinded to whether they are administering the active treatment or a placebo.
There was patient variability among the studies. In some studies, the authors said that patients were “medication resistant,” but the definitions of resistant, if provided, were inconsistent or unclear. For example, some described “medication resistant” as failing at least one trial of drugs during the current depressive episode. Furthermore, it was unclear if the term “medication resistant” referred to antidepressants only or to combinations of antidepressants and other drug augmentation strategies (such as neuroleptics, benzodiazepine, carbamazepine, and lithium). Also variable was the type of depression (i.e., unipolar and/or bipolar), if patients were inpatients or outpatients, if they had psychotic symptoms or no psychotic symptoms, and the chronicity of depression.
Dropouts or withdrawals were a concern. Some studies reported that patients dropped out, but provided no further details. Intent-to-treat analysis was not done in any of the trials. This is important, because ignoring patients who drop out of a trial can bias the results, usually in favour of the treatment. This is because patients who withdraw from trials are less likely to have had the treatment, more likely to have missed their interim checkups, and more likely to have experienced adverse effects when taking the treatment, compared with patients who do not withdraw. (1)
Measurement of treatment outcomes using scales or inventories makes interpreting results and drawing conclusions difficult. The most common scale, the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) is based on a semistructured interview. Some authors (2) reported that rating scales based on semistructured interviews are more susceptible to observation bias than are self-administered questionnaires such as the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Martin et al. (3) argued that the lack of consistency in effect as determined by the 2 scales (a positive result after 2 weeks of treatment as measured by the HDRS and a negative result for the BDI) makes definitive conclusions about the nature of the change in mood of patients impossible. It was suggested that because of difficulties interpreting results from psychometric scales, (4) and the subjective or unstable character of MDD, other, more objective, outcome measures such as readmission to hospital, time to hospital discharge, time to adjunctive treatment, and time off work should be used to assess rTMS for the treatment of depression.
A placebo effect could have influenced the results. Many studies reported response rates for patients who received placebo treatment. For example, Klein et al. (5) reported a control group response rate as high as 25%. Patients receiving placebo rTMS may receive a small dose of magnetic energy that may alter their depression.
Short-term studies were the most common. Patients received rTMS treatment for 1 to 2 weeks. Most studies followed-up patients for 2 to 4 weeks post-treatment. Dannon et al. (6) followed-up patients who responded to a course of ECT or rTMS for up to 6 months; however, the assessment procedure was not blinded, the medication regimen during follow-up was not controlled, and initial baseline data for the patient groups were not reported. The long-term effectiveness of rTMS for the treatment of depression is unknown, as is the long-term use, if any, of maintenance therapy. The cost-effectiveness of rTMS for the treatment of depression is also unknown. A lack of long-term studies makes cost-effectiveness analysis difficult.
The complexity of possible combinations for administering rTMS makes comparing like with like difficult. Wasserman and Lisanby (7) have said that the method for precisely targeting the stimulation in this area is unreliable. It is unknown if the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is the optimal location for treatment. Further, differences in rTMS administration include number of trains per session, duration of each train, and motor threshold.
Clinical versus statistical significance. Several meta-analyses and studies have found that the degree of therapeutic change associated with rTMS across studies is relatively modest; that is, results may be statistically, but not necessarily clinically, significant. (8-11). Conventionally, a 50% reduction in the HDRS scores is commonly accepted as a clinically important reduction in depression. Although some studies have observed a statistically significant reduction in the depression rating, many have not shows the clinically significant reduction of 50% on the HDRS. (11-13) Therefore, few patients in these studies would meet the standard criteria for response. (9)
Clinical/methodological diversity and statistical heterogeneity. In the Norwegian health technology assessment, Aarre et al. (14) said that a formal meta-analysis was not feasible because the designs of the studies varied too much, particularly in how rTMS was administered and in the characteristics of the patients. They noted that the quality of the study designs was poor. The 12 studies that comprised the assessment had small samples, and highly variable inclusion criteria and study designs. The patients’ previous histories, diagnoses, treatment histories, and treatment settings were often insufficiently characterized. Furthermore, many studies reported that patients had treatment-resistant MDD, yet did not listclear criteria for the designation. Without this information, Aarre and colleagues suggested that the interpretation of the results is difficult and the generalizability of results is questionable. They concluded that rTMS cannot be recommended as a standard treatment for depression: “More, larger and more carefully designed studies are needed to demonstrate convincingly a clinically relevant effect of rTMS.”
In the Cochrane Collaboration systematic review, Martin et al. (3;15) said that the complexity of possible combinations for administering rTMS makes comparison of like versus like difficult. A statistical test for heterogeneity (chi-square test) examines if the observed treatment effects are more different from each other than one would expect due to random error (or chance) alone. (16) However, this statistical test must be interpreted with caution because it has low power in the (common) situation of a meta-analysis when the trials have small sample sizes or are few. This means that while a statistically significant result may indicate a problem with heterogeneity, a nonsignificant result must not be taken as evidence of no heterogeneity.
Despite not finding statistically significant heterogeneity, Martin et al. reported that the overall mean baseline depression values for the severity of depression were higher in the treatment group than in the placebo group. (3;15) Although these differences were not significant at the level of each study, they may have introduced potential bias into the meta-analysis of pooled data by accentuating the tendency for regression to the mean of the more extreme values. Individual patient data from all the studies were not available; therefore, an appropriate adjustment according to baseline severity was not possible. Martin et al. concluded that the findings from the systematic review and meta-analysis provided insufficient evidence to suggest that rTMS is effective in the treatment of depression. Moreover, there were several confounding factors (e.g., definition of treatment resistance) in the studies, thus the authors concluded, “The rTMS technique needs more high quality trials to show its effectiveness for therapeutic use.”
Due to several serious methodological limitations in the studies that have examined the effectiveness of rTMS in patients with MDD, it is not possible to conclude that rTMS either is or is not effective as a treatment for MDD (in treatment-resistant depression or in nontreatment-resistant depression).
PMCID: PMC3387754  PMID: 23074457
6.  Lamotrigine as add-on treatment to lithium and divalproex: lessons learned from a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in rapid-cycling bipolar disorder 
Bipolar disorders  2012;14(7):780-789.
A substantial portion of the morbidity associated with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder (RCBD) stems from refractory depression. This study assessed the antidepressant effects of lamotrigine as compared with placebo when used as add-on therapy for rapid-cycling bipolar depression non-responsive to the combination of lithium plus divalproex.
During Phase 1 of this trial, hypomanic, manic, mixed, and/or depressed outpatients (n = 133) aged 18–65 with DSM-IV RCBD type I or II were initially treated with the open combination of lithium and divalproex for up to 16 weeks. During Phase 2, subjects who did not meet the criteria for stabilization (n = 49) (i.e., remained or cycled into the depressed phase) were randomly assigned to double-blind, adjunctive lamotrigine (n = 23) or adjunctive placebo (n = 26). The primary endpoint was the mean change in depression symptom severity from the beginning of Phase 2 to the end of Phase 2 (week 12) on the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) total score. Data were analyzed by analysis of covariance with last observation carried forward and a mixed-models analysis.
During Phase 1, a high rate of study discontinuations occurred due to intolerable side effects (13/133; 10%) and study non-adherence (22/133; 17%). Only 14% (19/133) stabilized on the open combination of lithium and divalproex. Among the 49 (37%) patients randomized to the double-blind adjunctive treatment phase, mean ± standard error change from baseline on the MADRS total score was −8.5 ± 1.7 points for lamotrigine and −9.1 ± 1.5 points for placebo (p = NS; mixed-models analysis). No significant differences were observed in the rates of response, remission, or bimodal response between lamotrigine and placebo.
The poor tolerability, lack of efficacy, and high rate of early discontinuation with the combination of lithium and divalproex suggests this regimen was ineffective for the majority of patients with RCBD. Among patients who did not stabilize on lithium and divalproex, the addition of lamotrigine was no more effective than placebo in reducing depression severity. The findings suggest an opportunity for several design modifications to enhance signal detection in future trials of RCBD. The main limitation is the small number of subjects randomized to double-blind treatment.
PMCID: PMC3640341  PMID: 23107222
rapid-cycling; bipolar depression; failed clinical trial; combination treatment; lamotrigine; lithium; divalproex
7.  Lamotrigine Adjunctive Therapy to Lithium and Divalproex in Depressed Patients with Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder and a Recent Substance Use Disorder: A 12 Week, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study 
Psychopharmacology bulletin  2010;43(4):5-21.
To pilot the efficacy and safety data of lamotrigine adjunctive therapy to lithium and divalproex in patients with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder (RCBD) and a recent substance use disorder (SUD).
Structured Clinical interviews were used to ascertain DSM-IV diagnosis of RCBD, SUDs, and other Axis I disorders. Patients who did not meet the criteria for a bimodal response after up to 16-weeks of open-label treatment with lithium plus divalproex, as measured by MADRS (Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale) ≤ 19, YMRS (Young Mania Rating Scale) ≤ 12 and GAF (Global Assessment of Functioning) ≥ 51 for 4 weeks, were rendomized to a 12-week, double-blind addition of lamotrigine or placebo to lithium plus divalproex. Primary and secondary outcomes were analyzed with ANCOVA, t-test, of chi-square/Fisher's exact.
Of 98 patients enrolled into the study, 36 were randomized to receive lamotrigine (n = 18) or placebo (n = 18), and 8 patients per arm completed the study. No patient discontinued due to adverse events. The change in MADRS total score from baseline to endpoint was –9.1 ± 11.2 in lamotrigine-treated patients versus –4.5 ± 13.1 in placebo-treated patients (p = 0.27). Therre were no significant differences in changes in YMRS total scores and rates of response or remission.
Lamotrigine adjunctive therapy was well toletated in patients previously non-responsive to initial treatment of lithium plus divalproex. A larger study is warranted to determine the efficacy and safety of adjunctive lamotrigine versus placebo in RCBD with a recent SUD.
PMCID: PMC3442254  PMID: 21240149
Bipolar disorder; substance use disorder; mood stabilizer; lamotrigine; placebo-controlled trial; treament-refractory
8.  The prevalence and significance of substance use disorders in bipolar type I and II disorder 
The aim of this paper is to provide a systematic review of the literature examining the epidemiology, outcome, and treatment of patients with bipolar disorder and co-occurring substance use disorders (SUDs). Articles for this review were initially selected via a comprehensive Medline search and further studies were obtained from the references in these articles. Given the lack of research in this field, all relevant studies except case reports were included.
Prior epidemiological research has consistently shown that substance use disorders (SUDs) are extremely common in bipolar I and II disorders. The lifetime prevalence of SUDs is at least 40% in bipolar I patients. Alcohol and cannabis are the substances most often abused, followed by cocaine and then opioids. Research has consistently shown that co-occurring SUDs are correlated with negative effects on illness outcome including more frequent and prolonged affective episodes, decreased compliance with treatment, a lower quality of life, and increased suicidal behavior. Recent research on the causal relationship between the two disorders suggests that a subgroup of bipolar patients may develop a relatively milder form of affective illness that is expressed only after extended exposure to alcohol abuse.
There has been very little treatment research specifically targeting this population. Three open label medication trials provide limited evidence that quetiapine, aripiprazole, and lamotrigine may be effective in treating affective and substance use symptoms in bipolar patients with cocaine dependence and that aripiprazole may also be helpful in patients with alcohol use disorders. The two placebo controlled trials to date suggest that valproate given as an adjunct to lithium in bipolar patients with co-occurring alcohol dependence improves both mood and alcohol use symptoms and that lithium treatment in bipolar adolescents improves mood and SUD symptoms.
Given the high rate of SUD co-occurrence, more research investigating treatments in this population is needed. Specifically, double blind placebo controlled trials are needed to establish the effectiveness of medications found to be efficacious in open label treatments. New research also needs to be conducted on medications found to treat either bipolar disorder or a SUD in isolation. In addition, it may be advisable to consider including patients with prior SUDs in clinical trials for new medications in bipolar disorder.
PMCID: PMC2094705  PMID: 17908301
9.  Antidepressants for bipolar disorder: A meta-analysis of randomized, double-blind, controlled trials 
Neural Regeneration Research  2013;8(31):2962-2974.
To examine the efficacy and safety of short-term and long-term use of antidepressants in the treatment of bipolar disorder.
A literature search of randomized, double-blind, controlled trials published until December 2012 was performed using the PubMed, ISI Web of Science, Medline and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials databases. The keywords “bipolar disorder, bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, bipolar mania, bipolar depression, cyclothymia, mixed mania and depression, rapid cycling and bipolar disorder”, AND “antidepressant agent, antidepressive agents second- generation, antidepressive agents tricyclic, monoamine oxidase inhibitor, noradrenaline uptake inhibitor, serotonin uptake inhibitor, and tricyclic antidepressant agent” were used. The studies that were listed in the reference list of the published papers but were not retrieved in the above-mentioned databases were supplemented.
Studies selected were double-blind randomized controlled trials assessing the efficacy and safety of antidepressants in patients with bipolar disorder. All participants were aged 18 years or older, and were diagnosed as having primary bipolar disorder. Antidepressants or antidepressants combined with mood stabilizers were used in experimental interventions. Placebos, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics and other antide pressants were used in the control interventions. Studies that were quasi-randomized studies, or used antidepressants in combination with antipsychotics in the experimental group were excluded. All analyses were conducted using Review Manager 5.1 provided by the Cochrane Collaboration.
The primary outcome was the response and switching to mania. The secondary outcomes included remission, discontinuation rate, and suicidality.
Among 5 001 treatment studies published, 14 double-blind randomized controlled trials involving 1 244 patients were included in the meta-analysis. Eleven short-term studies and three maintenance studies were included. Studies suggested that patients treated with antidepressants were not significantly more likely to achieve higher response and remission rates in the short-term or long-term treatment than patients treated with placebo and other medications. Antidepressants were not associated with an increased risk of discontinuation, relapse or suicidality. When one antidepressant was compared with another, no significant difference in efficacy and tolerability was found.
Existing evidence of efficacy does not support the short-term or long-term application of antidepressant therapy in patients with bipolar disorder, although the tolerability and safety of antidepressants have been generally acknowledged. There is a need for large-sample, double-blind, randomized controlled trials to elucidate the role of antidepressants in patients with different subcategories of bipolar disorder.
PMCID: PMC4146170  PMID: 25206617
neural regeneration; evidence-based medicine; bipolar disorder; bipolar depression; antidepressant; response; switching to mania; suicidality; meta-analysis; grants-supported paper; neuroregeneration
10.  Amelioration of Acute Sequelae of Blast Induced Mild Traumatic Brain Injury by N-Acetyl Cysteine: A Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54163.
Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) secondary to blast exposure is the most common battlefield injury in Southwest Asia. There has been little prospective work in the combat setting to test the efficacy of new countermeasures. The goal of this study was to compare the efficacy of N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) versus placebo on the symptoms associated with blast exposure mTBI in a combat setting.
This study was a randomized double blind, placebo-controlled study that was conducted on active duty service members at a forward deployed field hospital in Iraq. All symptomatic U.S. service members who were exposed to significant ordnance blast and who met the criteria for mTBI were offered participation in the study and 81 individuals agreed to participate. Individuals underwent a baseline evaluation and then were randomly assigned to receive either N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) or placebo for seven days. Each subject was re-evaluated at 3 and 7 days. Outcome measures were the presence of the following sequelae of mTBI: dizziness, hearing loss, headache, memory loss, sleep disturbances, and neurocognitive dysfunction. The resolution of these symptoms seven days after the blast exposure was the main outcome measure in this study. Logistic regression on the outcome of ‘no day 7 symptoms’ indicated that NAC treatment was significantly better than placebo (OR = 3.6, p = 0.006). Secondary analysis revealed subjects receiving NAC within 24 hours of blast had an 86% chance of symptom resolution with no reported side effects versus 42% for those seen early who received placebo.
This study, conducted in an active theatre of war, demonstrates that NAC, a safe pharmaceutical countermeasure, has beneficial effects on the severity and resolution of sequelae of blast induced mTBI. This is the first demonstration of an effective short term countermeasure for mTBI. Further work on long term outcomes and the potential use of NAC in civilian mTBI is warranted.
Trial Registration NCT00822263
PMCID: PMC3553161  PMID: 23372680
11.  Ziprasidone with Adjunctive Mood Stabilizer in the Maintenance Treatment of Bipolar I Disorder: Long-term Changes in Weight and Metabolic Profiles 
This analysis was conducted to compare the effects of adjunctive ziprasidone or placebo on metabolic parameters among patients receiving maintenance treatment with lithium or valproate. We also tested whether metabolic syndrome (MetS) and other risk factors were associated with baseline characteristics and treatment response. In the stabilization phase (Phase 1), 584 bipolar I disorder (DSM-IV) patients received 2.5-4 months of open label ziprasidone (80-160 mg/d) plus lithium or valproic acid (ZIP+MS). Patients who achieved at least 8 weeks of clinical stability were subsequently randomized into Phase 2 to 6-months of double-blind treatment with ZIP+MS (N=127) vs. placebo+MS (N=113). At baseline of Phase 1, MetS was found in 111 participants (23%). Participants with MetS (vs. non-MetS participants) were more likely to be aged 40 years or older, had significantly more severe manic symptoms, higher abdominal obesity, and higher BMI. Increase in abdominal obesity was associated with lower manic symptom improvement (p<0.05, as assessed by MRS change score) during Phase 1, while symptom improvement differed across racial groups. In the Phase 2 double-blind phase, the ZIP+MS group had similar weight and metabolic profiles compared to the placebo+MS group across visits. These results corroborate existing findings on ziprasidone which exhibits a neutral weight and metabolic profile in the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar patients. Our findings suggest that MetS is highly prevalent in patients with bipolar disorder, may be associated with greater manic symptom severity, and may predict treatment outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3225596  PMID: 21798721
Metabolic syndrome; medical comorbidity; treatment remission; ziprasidone
12.  Maintenance Treatment With Varenicline for Smoking Cessation in Patients With Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder 
It is estimated that more than half of those with serious mental illness smoke tobacco regularly. Standard courses of pharmacotherapeutic cessation aids improve short-term abstinence, but most who attain abstinence relapse rapidly after discontinuation of pharmacotherapy.
To determine whether smokers diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disease have higher rates of prolonged tobacco abstinence with maintenance pharmacotherapy than with standard treatment.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, relapse-prevention clinical trial conducted in 10 community mental-health centers. Of 247 smokers with schizophrenia or bipolar disease recruited from March 2008-April 2012, 203 received 12-weeks' open-label varenicline and cognitive behavioral therapy and 87 met abstinence criteria to enter the relapse prevention intervention.
Participants who had 2 weeks or more of continuous abstinence at week 12 of open treatment were randomly assigned to receive cognitive behavioral therapy and double-blind varenicline (1 mg, 2 per day) or placebo from weeks 12 to 52. Participants then discontinued study treatment and were followed up to week 76.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Seven-day rate of continuous abstinence at study week 52, the end of the relapse-prevention phase, confirmed by exhaled carbon monoxide. Secondary outcomes were continuous abstinence rates for weeks 12 through 64 based on biochemically verified abstinence and weeks 12 through 76, based on self-reported smoking behavior.
Sixty-one participants completed the relapse-prevention phase; 26 discontinued participation (7 varenicline, 19 placebo) and were considered to have relapsed for the analyses; 18 of these had relapsed prior to dropout. At week 52, point-prevalence abstinence rates were 60% in the varenicline group (24 of 40) vs 19% (9 of 47) in the placebo group (odds ratio [OR], 6.2; 95% CI, 2.2-19.2; P < .001). From weeks 12 through 64,45% (18 of 40) among those in the varenicline group vs 15% (7 of 47) in the placebo group were continuously abstinent (OR, 4.6; 95% CI, 1.5-15.7; P = .004), and from weeks 12 through 76,30% (12 of 40) in the varenicline group vs 11% (5 of 47) in the placebo group were continuously abstinent (OR, 3.4; 95% CI, 1.02-13.6; P = .03). There were no significant treatment effects on psychiatric symptom ratings or psychiatric adverse events.
Conclusions and Relevance
Among smokers with serious mental illness who attained initial abstinence with standard treatment, maintenance pharmacotherapy with varenicline and cognitive behavioral therapy improved prolonged tobacco abstinence rates compared with cognitive behavioral therapy alone after 1 year of treatment and at 6 months after treatment discontinuation.
PMCID: PMC4124884  PMID: 24399553
13.  The Collaborative Lithium Trials (CoLT): specific aims, methods, and implementation 
Lithium is a benchmark treatment for bipolar illness in adults. However, there has been relatively little methodologically stringent research regarding the use of lithium in youth suffering from bipolarity.
Under the auspices of the Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act (BPCA), a Written Request (WR) pertaining to the study of lithium in pediatric mania was issued by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in 2004. Accordingly, the NICHD issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) soliciting submissions to pursue this research. Subsequently, the NICHD awarded a contract to a group of investigators in order to conduct these studies.
The Collaborative Lithium Trials (CoLT) investigators, the BPCA-Coordinating Center, and the NICHD developed protocols to provide data that will: (1) establish evidence-based dosing strategies for lithium; (2) characterize the pharmacokinetics and biodisposition of lithium; (3) examine the acute efficacy of lithium in pediatric bipolarity; (4) investigate the long-term effectiveness of lithium treatment; and (5) characterize the short- and long-term safety of lithium. By undertaking two multi-phase trials rather than multiple single-phase studies (as was described in the WR), the feasibility of the research to be undertaken was enhanced while ensuring all the data outlined in the WR would be obtained. The first study consists of: (1) an 8-week open-label, randomized, escalating dose Pharmacokinetic Phase; (2) a 16-week Long-Term Effectiveness Phase; (3) a 28-week double-blind Discontinuation Phase; and (4) an 8-week open-label Restabilization Phase. The second study consists of: (1) an 8-week, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled Efficacy Phase; (2) an open-label Long-Term Effectiveness lasting either 16 or 24 weeks (depending upon blinded treatment assignment during the Efficacy Phase); (3) a 28-week double-blind Discontinuation Phase; and (4) an 8-week open-label Restabilization Phase. In December of 2006, enrollment into the first of these studies began across seven sites.
These innovative studies will not only provide data to inform the labeling of lithium in children and adolescents with bipolar disorder, but will also enhance clinical decision-making regarding the use of lithium treatment in pediatric bipolar illness.
Trial Registration
PMCID: PMC2531078  PMID: 18700004
14.  Randomized Trial of N-acetylcysteine in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis 
The New England journal of medicine  2014;370(22):2093-2101.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) has been suggested as a beneficial treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). A placebo-controlled study of this agent administrated orally alone in an IPF population has not been conducted.
An initially designed three-arm randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of prednisone plus azathioprine plus NAC (three-drug regimen) versus NAC versus placebo in IPF patients with mild-moderate impairment in pulmonary function was interrupted due to safety concerns associated with the three-drug regimen. The trial continued as a two-arm design (NAC vs. placebo) without other changes and enrolled 133 and 131 patients in the NAC and placebo arms, respectively. The primary outcome measure was the change in forced vital capacity (FVC) over a 60-week period.
Over the 60-week treatment period, there was no difference between the NAC and placebo groups in the decline of FVC (60-week change of −0.18 liters for NAC vs. −0.19 liters for placebo, p=0.77). In addition, there were no significant differences between NAC and placebo for mortality (6 [4.9%] vs. 3 [2.5%] events, p=0.50) or acute exacerbation (3 [2.3%] vs. 3 [2.3%] events, p>0.99).
Compared to placebo NAC offered no benefit for the preservation of FVC in IPF patients with mild-to-moderate physiological abnormalities.
PMCID: PMC4116664  PMID: 24836309
15.  N-Acetylcysteine as adjunctive treatment in severe malaria: A randomized double blinded placebo controlled clinical trial 
Critical care medicine  2009;37(2):516-522.
Markers of oxidative stress are reported to be increased in severe malaria. It has been suggested that the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC) may be beneficial in treatment. We studied the efficacy and safety of parenteral N-acetylcysteine as an adjunct to artesunate treatment of severe falciparum malaria.
A randomized double-blind placebo controlled trial on the use of high dose intravenous NAC as adjunctive treatment to artesunate.
A provincial hospital in Western Thailand and a tertiary referral hospital in Chittagong, Bangladesh.
One hundred and eight adult patients with severe falciparum malaria.
Patients were randomized to receive N-acetylcysteine or placebo as adjunctive treatment to intravenous artesunate.
Measurements and main results
A total of 56 patients were treated with NAC and 52 received placebo. NAC had no significant effect on mortality, lactate clearance times (p=0.74) or coma recovery times (p=0.46). Parasite clearance time was increased from 30h (range 6h to 144h) to 36h (range 6h to 120h) (p=0.03), but this could be explained by differences in admission parasitemia. Urinary F2-isoprostane metabolites, measured as a marker of oxidative stress, were increased in severe malaria compared to patients with uncomplicated malaria and healthy volunteers. Admission red cell rigidity correlated with mortality, but did not improve with NAC.
Systemic oxidative stress is increased in severe malaria. Treatment with N-acetylcysteine had no effect on outcome in patients with severe falciparum malaria in this setting.
PMCID: PMC2731834  PMID: 19114891
N-Acetylcysteine; Severe malaria; Adjunctive treatment
16.  Sleep architecture in ziprasidone-treated bipolar depression: a pilot study 
This study investigated the effect of ziprasidone augmentation therapy on sleep architecture in bipolar depression.
We conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical pilot trial of ziprasidone versus placebo in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition bipolar disorder with current major depressive episode. The effects during acute (2–5 days) and continuation treatment (28–31 days) were measured. Main outcomes were sleep architecture variables including rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and slow wave sleep (SWS) measured by polysomnography. Secondary outcomes included subjective sleep quality measures and illness severity measures including the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD-17), Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS), Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAMA) and Clinical Global Illness Severity (CGI-S) scores.
The completer analysis comprised of 14 patients (ziprasidone, N = 8 and placebo, N = 6). Latency to REM, duration of SWS, duration of stage 2 sleep, total sleep time, onset to sleep latency, number of awakenings and overall sleep efficiency significantly improved in ziprasidone-treated participants over placebo. CGI-S and HAMA scores also significantly improved. No significant difference between treatment groups was seen on the HAMD-17, MADRS or in self-reported sleep quality. Increase in SWS duration significantly correlated with improvement in CGI-S, however, this finding did not withstand Bonferroni correction.
Adjunctive ziprasidone treatment alters sleep architecture in patients with bipolar depression, which may partially explain its mechanism of action and merits further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3805453  PMID: 24167686
Atypical antipsychotic; bipolar depression; polysomnography; sleep architecture; ziprasidone; REM; SWS
17.  Antidepressant Efficacy of the Antimuscarinic Drug Scopolamine 
Archives of general psychiatry  2006;63(10):1121-1129.
The need for improved therapeutic agents that more quickly and effectively treat depression is critical. In a pilot study we evaluated the role of the cholinergic system in cognitive symptoms of depression and unexpectedly observed rapid reductions in depression severity following the administration of the antimuscarinic drug scopolamine hydrobromide (4 μg/kg intravenously) compared with placebo (P=.002). Subsequently a clinical trial was designed to assess more specifically the antidepressant efficacy of scopolamine.
To evaluate scopolamine as a potential antidepressant agent.
Two studies were conducted: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, dose-finding study followed by a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover clinical trial.
The National Institute of Mental Health.
Currently depressed outpatients aged 18 to 50 years meeting DSM-IV criteria for recurrent major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. Of 39 eligible patients, 19 were randomized and 18 completed the trial.
Multiple sessions including intravenous infusions of placebo or scopolamine hydrobromide (4 μg/kg). Individuals were randomized to a placebo/ scopolamine or scopolamine/placebo sequence (series of 3 placebo sessions and series of 3 scopolamine sessions). Sessions occurred 3 to 5 days apart.
Main Outcome Measures
Psychiatric evaluations using the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale and the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale were performed to assess antidepressant and antianxiety responses to scopolamine.
The placebo/scopolamine group showed no significant change during placebo infusion vs baseline; reductions in depression and anxiety rating scale scores (P<.001 for both) were observed after the administration of scopolamine compared with placebo. The scopolamine/placebo group also showed reductions in depression and anxiety rating scale scores (P<.001 for both) after the administration of scopolamine, relative to baseline, and these effects persisted as they received placebo. In both groups, improvement was significant at the first evaluation after scopolamine administration (P≤.002).
Rapid, robust antidepressant responses to the antimuscarinic scopolamine occurred in currently depressed patients who predominantly had poor prognoses.
PMCID: PMC3250308  PMID: 17015814
18.  Aripiprazole for the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder: a review of available evidence 
We aimed to review and synthesize results reporting on the maintenance efficacy of Aripiprazole in adults with bipolar I disorder. Aripiprazole is FDA approved for the acute and maintenance treatment of bipolar I disorder. Aripiprazole’s efficacy during the long-term treatment of bipolar disorder is supported by extension of acute phase studies and long-term (ie, 100-week) double-blind placebo controlled recurrence prevention registration trials. Aripiprazole is not established as efficacious in the acute or maintenance treatment of bipolar depression. Moreover, aripiprazole’s efficacy during the acute or maintenance phase of bipolar II disorder has not been sufficiently studied. Aripiprazole has a relatively lower hazard for metabolic disruption and change in body composition when compared to other atypical agents (eg, olanzapine, quetiapine). Moreover, aripiprazole has minimal propensity for sedation, somnolence and prolactin elevation. Aripiprazole is associated with extrapyramidal side effects, notably akathisia, which in most cases is not severe or treatment limiting. Future research vistas are to explore aripiprazole’s efficacy in bipolar subgroups; recurrence prevention of bipolar depression; and in combination with other mood stabilizing agents.
PMCID: PMC3104690  PMID: 21655345
aripiprazole; bipolar disorder; maintenance; pharmacology
19.  Effects of N-acetyl-cysteine on endothelial function and inflammation in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus 
Heart International  2009;4(1):e7.
Endothelial dysfunction has been associated with premature vascular disease. There is increasing data that N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) may prevent or improve endothelial dysfunction. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of NAC on endothelial function in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus, a population at high risk for endothelial dysfunction. Twenty-four patients with diabetes mellitus were assigned randomly to initial therapy with either 900 mg NAC or placebo twice daily in a double-blind, cross-over study design. Flowmediated vasodilation (FMD) of the brachial artery was assessed at baseline, after four weeks of therapy, after a four-week wash-out period, and after another four weeks on the opposite treatment. Plasma and red blood cell glutathione levels and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) were measured at all four visits. At baseline, FMD was moderately impaired (3.7±2.9%). There was no significant change in FMD after four weeks of NAC therapy as compared to placebo (0.1±3.6% vs. 1.2±4.2%). Similarly, there was no significant change in glutathione levels. However, median CRP decreased from 2.35 to 2.14 mg/L during NAC therapy (p=0.04), while it increased from 2.24 to 2.65 mg/L with placebo. No side effects were noted during the treatment period. In this double-blind, randomized cross-over study, four weeks of oral NAC therapy failed to improve endothelial dysfunction in patients with diabetes mellitus. However, NAC therapy decreased CRP levels, suggesting that this compound may have some efficacy in reducing systemic inflammation.
PMCID: PMC3184698  PMID: 21977284
endothelial function; diabetes mellitus; randomized trial; N-acetyl-cysteine.
20.  Adjunctive agomelatine therapy in the treatment of acute bipolar II depression: a preliminary open label study 
The circadian rhythm hypothesis of bipolar disorder (BD) suggests a role for melatonin in regulating mood, thus extending the interest toward the melatonergic antidepressant agomelatine as well as type I (acute) or II cases of bipolar depression.
Patients and methods
Twenty-eight depressed BD-II patients received open label agomelatine (25 mg/bedtime) for 6 consecutive weeks as an adjunct to treatment with lithium or valproate, followed by an optional treatment extension of 30 weeks. Measures included the Hamilton depression scale, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, the Clinical Global Impression Scale–Bipolar Version, Young Mania Rating Scale, and body mass index.
Intent to treat analysis results demonstrated that 18 of the 28 subjects (64%) showed medication response after 6 weeks (primary study endpoint), while 24 of the 28 subjects (86%) responded by 36 weeks. When examining primary mood stabilizer treatment, 12 of the 17 (70.6%) valproate and six of the 11 (54.5%) lithium patients responded by the first endpoint. At 36 weeks, 14 valproate treated (82.4%) and 10 lithium treated (90.9%) subjects responded. At 36 weeks, there was a slight yet statistically significant (P = 0.001) reduction in body mass index and Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index scores compared to respective baseline values, regardless of mood stabilizer/outcome. Treatment related drop-out cases included four patients (14.28%) at week 6 two valproate-treated subjects with pseudo-vertigo and drug-induced hypomania, respectively, and two lithium-treated subjects with insomnia and mania, respectively. Week 36 drop outs were two hypomanic cases, one per group.
Agomelatine 25 mg/day was an effective and well-tolerated adjunct to valproate/lithium for acute depression in BD-II, suggesting the need for confirmation by future double blind, controlled clinical trials.
PMCID: PMC3575211  PMID: 23430979
bipolar disorder type-II; acute bipolar depression; agomelatine; adjunctive treatment
21.  Efficacy and safety of olanzapine for treatment of patients with bipolar depression: Japanese subpopulation analysis of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study 
BMC Psychiatry  2013;13:138.
The efficacy and safety of olanzapine monotherapy are evaluated in Japanese patients from a large, global study of bipolar depression.
This is an analysis of Japanese patients from a 6-week, global (Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, and the United States), randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, Phase 3 study of patients with a depressive episode of bipolar I disorder. The primary outcome was baseline-to-endpoint change in the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) total score. Secondary outcome measures included the Clinical Global Impressions-Bipolar Version Severity of Illness Scale (CGI-BP), the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD-17) total score, the Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) total score, and rates of response (≥50% baseline-to-endpoint reduction in MADRS total score), recovery, and remission.
Of the 156 Japanese patients, 104 had been allocated to olanzapine and 52 to placebo. All results are baseline-to-endpoint change. Compared to placebo, patients in the olanzapine group experienced greater improvement in the primary outcome measure, MADRS total score (−14.9 vs. −10.7; p = .01). They also had greater reductions in the following secondary measures: CGI- BP Depression (−1.41 vs. -0.89; p = .008), CGI-BP Bipolar (−1.31 vs. −0.83; p = .01), HAMD-17 (−11.7 vs. −7.9; p < .01), and YMRS (-0.32 vs. 0.34; p = .03). Differences in rates of response, recovery, and remission were not statistically significant. A greater proportion of olanzapine-treated patients reported treatment- emergent adverse events (87.5% vs. 59.6%; p < .001). Patients treated with olanzapine had greater increases in weight (p < .001) and fasting total cholesterol (p = .008); fasting triglycerides (p = .02), and fasting low-density lipoprotein (p = .01). There was a greater reduction in fasting high-density lipoprotein in olanzapine-treated patients (p = .01). Compared with placebo-group patients, more olanzapine-group patients shifted from borderline to high cholesterol (25.0% vs. 0.0%; p = .007) and had clinically significant weight gain (≥7% body weight) (20.2% vs. 1.9%; p = .001).
Results of this analysis support the efficacy and tolerability of olanzapine for the treatment of bipolar depression in Japanese patients. Results in this population were consistent with those seen in the more ethnically diverse parent study. In making treatment decisions for individual patients, clinicians should carefully consider the risks and benefits of olanzapine treatment.
Trial Registration ID NCT00510146 Olanzapine Treatment of Patients with Bipolar I Disorder
PMCID: PMC3666902  PMID: 23672672
Bipolar disorder; Bipolar depression; Olanzapine; Efficacy; Safety; Monotherapy; Japan; Japanese
22.  Adjunctive Atypical Antipsychotic Treatment for Major Depressive Disorder: A Meta-Analysis of Depression, Quality of Life, and Safety Outcomes 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(3):e1001403.
In a systematic review and meta-analysis, Glen Spielmans and colleagues find that adjunctive atypical antipsychotic medications are associated with small-to-moderate improvements in depressive symptoms in patients with depression, but there is little evidence for improvement on measures of quality of life, and these medications are linked to adverse events such as weight gain.
Atypical antipsychotic medications are widely prescribed for the adjunctive treatment of depression, yet their total risk–benefit profile is not well understood. We thus conducted a systematic review of the efficacy and safety profiles of atypical antipsychotic medications used for the adjunctive treatment of depression.
Methods and Findings
We included randomized trials comparing adjunctive antipsychotic medication to placebo for treatment-resistant depression in adults. Our literature search (conducted in December 2011 and updated on December 14, 2012) identified 14 short-term trials of aripiprazole, olanzapine/fluoxetine combination (OFC), quetiapine, and risperidone. When possible, we supplemented published literature with data from manufacturers' clinical trial registries and US Food and Drug Administration New Drug Applications. Study duration ranged from 4 to 12 wk. All four drugs had statistically significant effects on remission, as follows: aripiprazole (odds ratio [OR], 2.01; 95% CI, 1.48–2.73), OFC (OR, 1.42; 95% CI, 1.01–2.0), quetiapine (OR, 1.79; 95% CI, 1.33–2.42), and risperidone (OR, 2.37; 95% CI, 1.31–4.30).
The number needed to treat (NNT) was 19 for OFC and nine for each other drug. All drugs with the exception of OFC also had statistically significant effects on response rates, as follows: aripiprazole (OR, 2.07; 95% CI, 1.58–2.72; NNT, 7), OFC (OR, 1.30, 95% CI, 0.87–1.93), quetiapine (OR, 1.53, 95% CI, 1.17–2.0; NNT, 10), and risperidone (OR, 1.83, 95% CI, 1.16–2.88; NNT, 8). All four drugs showed statistically significant effects on clinician-rated depression severity measures (Hedges' g ranged from 0.26 to 0.48; mean difference of 2.69 points on the Montgomery–Asberg Depression Rating Scale across drugs). On measures of functioning and quality of life, these medications produced either no benefit or a very small benefit, except for risperidone, which had a small-to-moderate effect on quality of life (g = 0.49).
Treatment was linked to several adverse events, including akathisia (aripiprazole), sedation (quetiapine, OFC, and aripiprazole), abnormal metabolic laboratory results (quetiapine and OFC), and weight gain (all four drugs, especially OFC). Shortcomings in study design and data reporting, as well as use of post hoc analyses, may have inflated the apparent benefits of treatment and reduced the apparent incidence of adverse events.
Atypical antipsychotic medications for the adjunctive treatment of depression are efficacious in reducing observer-rated depressive symptoms, but clinicians should interpret these findings cautiously in light of (1) the small-to-moderate-sized benefits, (2) the lack of benefit with regards to quality of life or functional impairment, and (3) the abundant evidence of potential treatment-related harm.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Everyone feels miserable occasionally. But for people who are clinically depressed, feelings of sadness and hopelessness and physical symptoms such as sleeping badly can last for months or years and can make them feel life is no longer worth living. Depression affects one in six people at some time during their life. Clinicians diagnose depression by asking their patients a series of questions about their feelings and symptoms. The answer to each question is given a score, and the total score from the questionnaire (“depression rating scale”) indicates the severity of depression. Treatment of depression often involves talking treatments (psychotherapy) such as cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps people change negative ways of thinking and behaving and antidepressant drugs, most commonly “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors” such as fluoxetine and paroxetine.
Why Was This Study Done?
Atypical antipsychotic medications (for example, aripiprazole, olanzapine/fluoxetine combination [OFC], quetiapine, and risperidone) are also widely prescribed for the treatment of depression. These drugs, which were developed to treat mental illnesses that are characterized by a loss of contact with reality, are used as adjunctive therapy for depression. That is, they are used in addition to antidepressant drugs. Clinicians wrote nearly four million prescriptions for adjunctive treatment of depression with atypical antipsychotic medications in 2007–2008 in the US alone. However, it is not known whether the benefits of using these drugs to treat depression outweigh their side effects, which include weight gain, sedation, and akathisia (a feeling of inner restlessness resulting in an urge to move, which may or may not be accompanied by increased movement). Here, the researchers undertake a systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy and safety profiles of atypical antipsychotic medications used for the adjunctive treatment of depression. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic; a meta-analysis is a statistical approach that combines the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 14 short-term randomized controlled trials (duration 4–12 weeks) that compared adjunctive antipsychotic medications (aripiprazole, OFC, quetiapine, or risperidone) to placebo (dummy drug) in the treatment of depression that had not responded to antidepressant medication alone. All four drugs had statistically significant effects (effects unlikely to have happened by chance) on remission, which was most commonly defined as a score of less than eight at the study end point on the Montgomery–Asberg Depression Rating Scale. The researchers calculated the number of patients that would have to be treated for one patient to achieve remission (number needed to treat, or NNT). For OFC, the NNT was 19; for all the other drugs it was nine. All the drugs except OFC also significantly improved response rates (defined as a 50% improvement in depression rating score). However, the medications provided little or no benefit in terms of functioning and quality of life, except for risperidone, which had a small-to-moderate effect on quality of life. Finally, treatment with atypical antipsychotic medications was linked to several adverse effects, including weight gain (all four drugs) and akathisia (aripiprazole).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results suggest that atypical antipsychotic medications for the adjunctive treatment of depression are efficacious in reducing observer-rated depressive symptoms. However, clinicians should interpret this conclusion cautiously for several reasons. First, adjunctive treatment with atypical antipsychotics provided only small-to-moderate benefits. Moreover, shortcomings in study design and data reporting methods may have inflated the apparent benefits of treatment and reduced the apparent incidence of adverse events. Second, this study provides little evidence that adjunctive treatment with atypical antipsychotics improves patients' quality of life or reduces their functional impairment. Finally, this study highlights abundant evidence of potential treatment-related harm. This evaluation of the safety and efficacy of adjunctive treatments for clinical depression provides critical insights that should help clinicians better understand the risk–benefit profiles of this approach to the treatment of major depressive disorder.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information on all aspects of depression (in English and Spanish); it has a webpage on mental health medications that includes information about atypical antipsychotics
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides detailed information about depression and includes personal stories about depression
More personal stories about depression are available from
The UK charity Mind provides information on depression and on antipsychotic drugs; Mind also includes personal stories about depression on its website
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about depression (in English and Spanish)
Healthy Skepticism is an international nonprofit membership association that aims to improve health by reducing harm from misleading health information
PMCID: PMC3595214  PMID: 23554581
23.  Efficacy of adjunctive aripiprazole in patients with major depressive disorder whose symptoms worsened with antidepressant monotherapy 
CNS Spectrums  2014;19(6):528-534.
Efficacy of depression treatments, including adjunctive antipsychotic treatment, has not been explored for patients with worsening symptoms after antidepressant therapy (ADT).
This post-hoc analysis utilized pooled data from 3 similarly designed, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials that assessed the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of adjunctive aripiprazole in patients with major depressive disorder with inadequate response to ADT. The studies had 2 phases: an 8-week prospective ADT phase and 6-week adjunctive (aripiprazole or placebo) treatment phase. This analysis focused on patients whose symptoms worsened during the prospective 8-week ADT phase (worsening defined as >0% increase in Montgomery–Åsberg Depressive Rating Scale [MADRS] Total score). During the 6-week, double-blind, adjunctive phase, response was defined as ≥50% reduction in MADRS Total score and remission as ≥50% reduction in MADRS Total score and MADRS score ≤10.
Of 1065 patients who failed to achieve a response during the prospective phase, 160 exhibited worsening of symptoms (ADT-Worseners), and 905 exhibited no change/reduction in MADRS scores (ADT-Non-worseners). Response rates for ADT-Worseners at endpoint were 36.6% (adjunctive aripiprazole) and 22.5% (placebo). Similarly, response rates at endpoint for ADT-Non-worseners were 37.5% (adjunctive aripiprazole) and 22.5% (placebo). Remission rates at endpoint for ADT-Worseners were 25.4% (adjunctive aripiprazole) and 12.4% (placebo). For ADT-Non-worseners, remission rates were 29.9% (adjunctive aripiprazole) and 17.4% (placebo).
These results suggest that adjunctive aripiprazole is an effective intervention for patients whose symptoms worsen during antidepressant monotherapy. The results challenge the view that benefits of adjunctive therapy with aripiprazole are limited to partial responders to ADT.
PMCID: PMC4255320  PMID: 24642260
Adjunctive treatment; antidepressant; inadequate response; major depressive disorder; symptom worsening
24.  Health-Related Quality of Life and Functional Outcomes from a Randomized-Withdrawal Study of Long-Term Lisdexamfetamine Dimesylate Treatment in Children and Adolescents with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder 
CNS Drugs  2014;28(12):1191-1203.
The stimulant prodrug lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (LDX) is an effective and generally well tolerated treatment for the symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Positive impacts of LDX on health-related quality of life and functional impairment have previously been demonstrated in a 7-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase III study in children and adolescents in Europe. Maintenance of these broad benefits, as well as symptomatic control, is a key goal of long-term management of ADHD.
Secondary objectives of this multinational study in children and adolescents with ADHD were to assess the long-term maintenance of effectiveness of LDX in improving health-related quality of life and reducing functional impairment, as gauged using the Child Health and Illness Profile-Child Edition: Parent Report Form (CHIP-CE: PRF) and the Weiss Functional Impairment Rating Scale-Parent Report (WFIRS-P), respectively.
Patients aged 6–17 years with diagnosed ADHD and a baseline ADHD Rating Scale IV total score of at least 28 were enrolled from the previous European study and from US sites. Patients who completed an open-label LDX treatment period of at least 26 weeks were randomized (1:1) to continue on their optimized dose of LDX or to switch to placebo for a 6-week, double-blind, withdrawal period. Parents completed CHIP-CE: PRF and WFIRS-P questionnaires at weeks 0, 8 and 26 of the open-label period and at weeks 0 and 6 of the randomized-withdrawal period, or at early termination. The endpoint of each period was defined as the last visit with valid data. Effect sizes were the difference (LDX minus placebo) in least-squares (LS)-mean change from baseline to endpoint divided by root-mean-square error. P values were nominal and not adjusted for multiple comparisons.
The open-label and randomized full analysis sets comprised 262 and 153 (LDX n = 76; placebo n = 77) patients, respectively. Mean pretreatment CHIP-CE: PRF T-scores were more than one standard deviation below the normative mean in four of the five domains, and there was significant improvement across all domains from baseline to endpoint of the open-label period. In the randomized-withdrawal period, LS-mean CHIP-CE: PRF T-scores deteriorated in all domains in the placebo group, but not in the LDX group. Compared with placebo, the effect of LDX was significant in the Risk Avoidance (effect size 0.829; p < 0.001), Achievement (0.696; p < 0.001) and Satisfaction (0.636; p < 0.001) domains. Mean pretreatment WFIRS-P scores were lowest in the Family domain and the Learning and School domain. WFIRS-P total score and scores in all domains improved significantly from baseline to endpoint of the open-label period. In the randomized-withdrawal period, LS-mean scores deteriorated in the placebo group but not in the LDX group. Compared with placebo, the effect of LDX was significant in the Family, Learning and School, and Risky Activities domains and in total (effect size 0.908; p < 0.001).
Using parent-rated instruments, long-term maintenance of the beneficial effect of LDX in multiple domains of health-related quality of life and functional impairment was demonstrated by comparison of treatment continuation and withdrawal under randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled conditions.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s40263-014-0193-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4246127  PMID: 25139785
25.  Prednisone, Azathioprine, and N-Acetylcysteine for Pulmonary Fibrosis 
The New England journal of medicine  2012;366(21):1968-1977.
A combination of prednisone, azathioprine, and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) has been widely used as a treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The safety and efficacy of this three-drug regimen is unknown.
In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, we assigned patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis who had mild-to-moderate lung-function impairment to one of three groups — receiving a combination of prednisone, azathioprine, and NAC (combination therapy), NAC alone, or placebo — in a 1:1:1 ratio. The primary outcome was the change in longitudinal measurements of forced vital capacity during a 60-week treatment period.
When approximately 50% of data had been collected (with 77 patients in the combination-therapy group and 78 in the placebo group), a planned interim analysis revealed that patients in the combination-therapy group, as compared with the placebo group, had an increased rate of death (8 vs. 1, P = 0.01) and hospitalization (23 vs. 7, P<0.001). These observations, coupled with no evidence of physiological or clinical benefit for combination therapy, prompted the independent data and safety monitoring board to recommend termination of the combination-therapy group at a mean follow-up of 32 weeks. Data from the ongoing comparison of the NAC-only group and the placebo group are not reported here.
Increased risks of death and hospitalization were observed in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis who were treated with a combination of prednisone, azathioprine, and NAC, as compared with placebo. These findings provide evidence against the use of this combination in such patients. (Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the Cowlin Family Fund; number, NCT00650091.)
PMCID: PMC3422642  PMID: 22607134

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