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Safety and Tolerability of Oral Loading Divalproex Sodium in Acutely Manic Bipolar Patients

J Clin Psychiatry 1999;60(12):815-818

Background: Achieving therapeutic blood levels of a mood stabilizer as quickly as possible is desirable in patients with acute mania. We examined the feasibility and safety of an accelerated oral loading strategy (divalproex, 30 mg/kg/day, on days 1 and 2, followed by 20 mg/kg/day on days 3-10) designed to bring serum valproate concentrations to therapeutic levels (i.e., above 50 mg/mL).

Method: Fifty-nine patients who met DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for current manic episode and who had a Mania Rating Scale score >= 14 were randomly assigned on a double-blind basis to receive divalproex oral loading (N = 20); divalproex nonloading (N = 20) at a starting dose of 250 mg t.i.d. on days 1 and 2, followed by standard dose titration for days 3 to 10; or lithium carbonate (N = 19) at a starting dose of 300 mg t.i.d., followed by standard dose titration for days 3 to 10.

Results: Eighty-four percent of the divalproex-loading patients, but only 30% of the divalproex-nonloading patients, had valproate serum levels above 50 mg/mL at day 3 of the study. None of the lithium-treated patients had serum lithium levels above 0.8 mEq/L at study day 3. No patient was removed from the study because of an adverse event. There were no significant differences between the groups in the frequencies or types of adverse events.

Conclusion: Accelerated oral loading with divalproex sodium is a feasible and safe method to bring serum valproate concentrations to effective levels rapidly.