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Citalopram as Adjunctive Therapy in Bipolar Depression

J Clin Psychiatry 2001;62:985-990

Background: The treatment of bipolar depression remains a major clinical challenge. The effectiveness and safety of adjunctive citalopram were evaluated in DSM-IV-diagnosed bipolar depressed patients in a 5-site study.

Method: The treatment strategy consisted of an open-label add-on design in which patients received 8 weeks of acute treatment with citalopram adjunctive to their ongoing treatment with mood stabilizers. Ongoing treatment with 1 antipsychotic, 1 anxiolytic, and 1 hypnotic agent was permitted. Responders to the 8-week trial then received 16 weeks of additional treatment with citalopram.

Results: Forty-five subjects entered the trial; 12 dropped out before the end of the acute treatment phase. Of the 33 patients who completed the acute treatment phase, 64% (N = 21) were responders and 36% (N = 12) were nonresponders. In the continuation phase of the study, 14 patients achieved sustained remission, 3 patients did not achieve remission before completing 16 weeks of continuation treatment, 2 patients experienced a relapse, and 2 patients dropped out of the study and did not have a chance to remit. In spite of the extensive concomitant medication usage allowed in this study, citalopram treatment was well tolerated and the level of reported adverse events (including headache, nausea, diarrhea, and sexual dysfunction) relatively low.

Conclusion: The high response rate, the high rate of sustained remission, and the low rate of adverse events strongly support the use of citalopram as a treatment for bipolar I or II depression. These findings should stimulate a controlled double-blind trial to demonstrate even more clearly the usefulness of this drug in the therapeutic regimen for bipolar disorder.