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New Treatments for Bipolar Disorder: The Role of Atypical Neuroleptic Agents

S. Nassir Ghaemi, MD

Published: December 30, 2000

Article Abstract

Atypical neuroleptic agents are an excellent, safer, and more effective alternative to the widespreadpractice of maintenance adjunctive treatment with traditional neuroleptic agents in patientswith bipolar disorder. Currently, a number of prospective studies are available with clozapine, risperidone,olanzapine, and quetiapine in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Most are short-term studies,although longer-term data are becoming available. Four double-blind studies of acute mania havebeen conducted with risperidone and olanzapine, leading to recent Food and Drug Administrationapproval for olanzapine in the indication of acute mania. Given the limited longer-term data, and theevidence for mostly adjunctive benefits with these agents, it seems unlikely that these agents willprove to be primary mood stabilizers in their own right. Nonetheless, they serve an important role asadjunctive treatments along with standard mood stabilizers in the rational polypharmacy of bipolardisorder. To date, differences in efficacy have not been established. However, differences in the sideeffect of weight gain may be even more relevant in bipolar disorder than in schizophrenia due to theneed to use standard mood stabilizers that often potentiate such weight gain.

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