Week 5 – assessing and treating patients with bipolar disorder

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Week 5 – Assessing and Treating Patients with Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a unique disorder that causes shifts in mood and energy, which results in depression and mania for patients. Proper diagnosis of this disorder is often a challenge for two reasons: 1) patients often present as depressive or manic but may have both; and 2) many symptoms of bipolar disorder are similar to other disorders. Misdiagnosis is common, making it essential for you to have a deep understanding of the disorder’s pathophysiology.


For this assignment, you will write a 5–6-page paper on the topic of bipolar and bipolar and related disorders. You will create this guide as an assignment; therefore, a title page, introduction, conclusion, and reference page are required. You must include a minimum of 3 scholarly supporting resources outside of your course provided resources.

In your paper, you will choose one of the following diagnoses: Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Cyclothymic Disorder, Substance/Medication-Induced Bipolar and Related Disorder, Bipolar and Related Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition. Your paper will include discussion for your chosen diagnosis of bipolar and related disorder on the following:

Prevalence and Neurobiology of your chosen disorder

Discuss the differences between your chosen disorder and one other bipolar and related disorders in relation to the diagnostic criteria including presentation of symptoms according to DSM 5 TR criteria

Discuss special populations and considerations (children, adolescents, pregnancy/post-partum, older adult, emergency care) for your chosen bipolar and related disorder; demonstrating critical thinking beyond basics of HIPPA and informed consent with discussion of at least one for EACH category:  legal considerations, ethical considerations, cultural considerations, social determinants of health

Discuss FDA and/or clinical practice guidelines approved pharmacological treatment options in relation to acute and mixed episodes vs maintenance pharmacological treatment for your chosen bipolar and related disorder

Of the medication treatment options for your chosen disorder discuss side effects, FDA approvals and warnings.  What is important to monitor in terms of labs, comorbid medical issues with why important for monitoring

Provide 3 examples of how to write a proper prescription that you would provide to the patient or transmit to the pharmacy. please be detailed in your description of the medications, including uses, potential adverse effects, monitoring and potential drug interactions. 

Guideline Watch for the Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Bipolar Disorder 1


Robert M. A. Hirschfeld, M.D.

APA’s Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Bipolar Disorder, 2nd Edition, was
published in April 2002 (1). Since that time, a number of controlled treatment studies on as-
pects of bipolar disorder have been completed and published or are in press, including studies
of second-generation (atypical) antipsychotics as monotherapy and as adjunctive treatment
(with more traditional mood stabilizers) for the acute treatment of mania, studies of antiepileptic
agents for the acute treatment of mania, trials for three medications for the acute treatment of
bipolar depression, four monotherapy and one combination therapy relapse prevention studies,
and studies of psychosocial interventions for maintenance. The evidence from these studies
supports a substantially expanded set of options for clinicians who treat patients with bipolar
disorder. This guideline watch briefly reviews the most important of the studies. The majority
of the studies were industry supported.

Recently completed epidemiological studies have estimated the lifetime prevalence of bipolar I
and II disorders in the general population to be 3.7%–3.9% (2, 3). The prevalence in samples of
patients presenting with depression is much higher, ranging from 21% (4) to 26% (5) in primary
care settings and from 28% (6) to 49% (7) in psychiatric clinics. Use of a screening instrument,
such as the Mood Disorder Questionnaire, can substantially improve recognition of patients with
bipolar disorder, particularly among depressed patients (8).

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) practice guidelines are developed by expert work groups us-
ing an explicit methodology that includes rigorous review of available evidence, broad peer review of it-
erative drafts, and formal approval by the APA Assembly and Board of Trustees. APA practice guidelines
are intended to assist psychiatrists in clinical decision making. They are not intended to be a standard of
care. The ultimate judgment regarding a particular clinical procedure or treatment plan must be made by
the psychiatrist in light of the clinical data presented by the patient and the diagnostic and treatment op-
tions available. Guideline watches summarize significant developments in practice since publication of an
APA practice guideline. Watches may be authored and reviewed by experts associated with the original
guideline development effort and are approved for publication by APA’s Executive Committee on Practice
Guidelines. Thus, watches represent opinion of the authors and approval of the Executive Committee but
not policy of the APA. This guideline watch was published in November 2005. Copyright © 2005. Amer-
ican Psychiatric Association. All rights reserved. Suggested citation: Hirschfeld RMA: Guideline Watch:
Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Bipolar Disorder. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric
Association. Available online at http://www.psych.org/psych_pract/treatg/pg/prac_guide.cfm.

2 APA Practice Guidelines

Acute treatment

Manic or mixed episodes
Two randomized, double-blind, controlled studies have shown olanzapine monotherapy to be
significantly better than placebo for the acute treatment of patients with mania or mixed epi-
sodes, with initial dosing of either 10 mg/day or 15 mg/day (9, 10). Somnolence, dry mouth,
dizziness, and weight gain occurred significantly more frequently in the olanzapine group than
in the placebo group. In another randomized, double-blind study, olanzapine was equivalent
to haloperidol for patients with acute mania and was superior to haloperidol for patients whose
index episode did not include psychotic features (11). Olanzapine monotherapy has also been
compared with divalproex monotherapy in two randomized, double-blind, controlled studies.
In one there was equivalent efficacy (12), and in the other olanzapine had superior efficacy
(13). However, the side-effect profile for divalproex was more benign.

Olanzapine has also been studied as an adjunctive agent to traditional mood stabilizers. In
a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial, olanzapine added to divalproex or lithium was
superior to divalproex or lithium alone in patients who had had an inadequate response to at
least 2 weeks of lithium or valproate monotherapy (14). Side effects included somnolence, hyper-
kinesia, and nausea.

The efficacy of risperidone monotherapy for the acute treatment of mania has been demon-
strated in three randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. Risperidone monotherapy
was superior to placebo in all three studies. In the three studies patients were started on 3 mg/day
of risperidone, with titration to a maximum of 6 mg/day. Onset of action in one study was seen at
day 3 (15), and in another at 1 week (16). In the third study, risperidone was equivalent to halo-
peridol and superior to placebo (17). Side effects included somnolence, hyperkinesia, and nausea.

Two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies examined the adjunctive use of
risperidone with traditional mood stabilizers (i.e., lithium or divalproex) (18, 19). In both stud-
ies the combination of risperidone with mood stabilizer outperformed mood stabilizer alone.
The addition of risperidone substantially increased the prevalence of extrapyramidal symptoms.

The efficacy of ziprasidone as monotherapy in the acute treatment of patients with manic
or mixed episodes was tested in two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies,
with initial dosing of 40 mg twice a day (20, 21). Ziprasidone had an onset of action at day 2 in
both trials and was superior to placebo at endpoint. The mean dosage in the two studies was
130 mg/day and 112 mg/day, respectively. Side effects included somnolence, dizziness, extra-
pyramidal syndrome, nausea, akathisia, and tremor.

Two studies of aripiprazole monotherapy in the acute treatment of mania have been pub-
lished (22, 23). In a randomized, double-blind, controlled study, aripiprazole at a starting dos-
age of 30 mg/day was compared with placebo in patients with manic or mixed episodes (22).
Aripiprazole was superior to placebo in efficacy, beginning at day 4. Side effects included nausea,
dyspepsia, somnolence, vomiting, insomnia, and akathisia. A second study compared aripipra-
zole and haloperidol over 12 weeks (23). The drugs performed similarly regarding improve-
ment in manic symptoms, but substantially more aripiprazole patients completed the study.
Extrapyramidal symptoms were much higher for haloperidol.

The efficacy of quetiapine in patients with manic episodes has been studied in two different
12-week randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials—one against lithium and the
other against haloperidol (24, 25). Quetiapine was initiated at 100 mg on day 1, with an up-
ward titration to 800 mg/day or higher. Quetiapine was equivalent in efficacy to the two active
comparators, and both were superior to placebo at day 21. Side effects included dry mouth,
somnolence, weight gain, and dizziness.

In another study, adjunctive quetiapine or placebo was given to acutely manic patients who
were still manic after at least 7 days of treatment with lithium or divalproex. Quetiapine was ini-
tiated at 100 mg and titrated to 400 mg/day by day 4, with a target dose of 200–800 mg/day (26).

Guideline Watch for the Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Bipolar Disorder 3

The quetiapine treatment group had a significantly higher response rate and reduction in manic
symptoms. The mean last-week dosage in all patients receiving quetiapine was 504 mg/day.

There have been two recently published randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled
studies of the extended-release formulation of the anticonvulsant carbamazepine for the acute
treatment of manic or mixed episodes (27, 28). In both studies, carbamazepine extended-
release was initiated at 400 mg in divided doses on day 1 and increased as tolerated up to 1,600
mg/day. The mean final dosages were 756 mg/day (27) and 643 mg/day (28), respectively. An
onset of action was seen at day 14 in the first trial and at day 7 in the second trial, and both
trials found carbamazepine extended-release to be superior to placebo at endpoint. Side effects
included dizziness, somnolence, nausea, vomiting, ataxia, blurred vision, dyspepsia, dry mouth,
pruritus, and speech disorder.

The many monotherapy and adjunctive therapy studies of mania since 2002 provide a num-
ber of new options for clinicians in the acute treatment of patients with mania.

A significant clinical concern is metabolic effects associated with second-generation anti-
psychotics (29). Clozapine and olanzapine are associated with increased risks of developing di-
abetes mellitus and dyslipidemia. A recent comparative antipsychotic trial in schizophrenia
suggested significantly greater weight gain for olanzapine than for the other antipsychotics
studied (i.e., perphenazine, quetiapine, risperidone, and ziprasidone) (30). Clozapine and olan-
zapine are associated with the most weight gain, risperidone and quetiapine with moderate
weight gain, and ziprasidone and aripiprazole with minimal weight change. Because of these
risks, clinicians have been advised to monitor weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, glu-
cose, and lipids at baseline and at monthly intervals in patients on these medications (31).

Depressive episodes
The impact (in terms of duration of episodes and quality of life) of depressive episodes in bi-
polar patients is substantially worse than the impact of manic episodes (32, 33). Unfortunately,
far less research attention has been paid to the treatment of bipolar depression (34, 35). This sec-
tion reviews three studies published since the 2002 publication of the second edition practice

In an 8-week placebo-controlled, double-blind study, olanzapine monotherapy and the
combination of olanzapine and fluoxetine were examined in the acute treatment of bipolar I
depression (36). Although both olanzapine and the combination of olanzapine and fluoxetine
were superior to placebo in efficacy, the response in the combination group was much greater,
and only the combination of olanzapine and fluoxetine received an indication from the Food
and Drug Administration for the acute treatment of bipolar depression. The first separation
from placebo occurred at week 1 and continued throughout the trial. The mean dosage in the
combination group was 7.4 mg/day of olanzapine and 39.3 mg/day of fluoxetine. By the end
of the study, 8 of 10 core symptoms of depression had improved relative to placebo. Side effects
included somnolence, weight gain, increased appetite, dry mouth, asthenia, and diarrhea. Nei-
ther olanzapine monotherapy nor the combination of olanzapine and fluoxetine caused switch-
ing into mania or hypomania.

A large randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial supported the efficacy of que-
tiapine monotherapy for the treatment of bipolar I or II depression (37). Quetiapine initiated
at 50 mg/day and titrated to either 300 mg/day or 600 mg/day within 1 week was found to be
effective compared with placebo at both doses, with no significant difference in efficacy be-
tween the two dosage groups. Onset of action occurred by 1 week and continued throughout
the trial. Statistical significance was achieved at endpoint in 9 of 10 core features of depression.
Side effects included dry mouth, sedation, somnolence, dizziness, and constipation and were
substantially greater in the 600 mg/day group compared with the 300 mg/day group. Incidence
of treatment-emergent mania did not differ from that of placebo.

4 APA Practice Guidelines

A single-blind, randomized, nonplacebo-controlled comparison of venlafaxine and paroxe-
tine was conducted with patients with bipolar disorder who were currently presenting with a
major depressive episode and who were currently taking a mood stabilizer (38). Both medica-
tions yielded significant improvements in depressive symptomatology with no significant dif-
ferences in safety measures. Among the patients treated with paroxetine, 3% switched to
hypomania or mania, compared with 13% in the venlafaxine group.

Two small, controlled studies of the adjunctive use of the dopamine agonist pramipexole in the
treatment of bipolar depression suggest efficacy (39, 40). Both studies were 6-week placebo-con-
trolled studies of pramipexole (mean peak dosage = 1.7 mg/day) added to the therapeutic levels of
traditional mood stabilizers. Results were strongly positive in both studies, with few adverse events.

In conclusion, medications having the strongest evidence for efficacy for acute treatment of
depression in patients with bipolar I disorder are the olanzapine-fluoxetine combination, que-
tiapine, and lamotrigine. There is suggestive evidence that the adjunctive use of pramipexole
may be helpful. Evidence for the efficacy of an antidepressant with adjunctive mood stabilizer
is modest. Prescription of antidepressants in the absence of a mood stabilizer is not recom-
mended for bipolar I patients.

Maintenance treatment
Since publication of the second edition practice guideline, new studies have been published on
the long-term treatment of patients with bipolar disorder.

Pharmacological interventions
Two large randomized, double-blind studies examined the utility of lamotrigine in the main-
tenance treatment of patients with bipolar I disorder (41, 42). Both studies were placebo con-
trolled and included lithium monotherapy as an active comparator. In one study, patients had
most recently suffered a depressive episode (41) and, in the other, a manic or hypomanic episode
(42). Both studies involved an open-label stabilization period of 8–16 weeks followed by an
18-month trial of lamotrigine monotherapy, lithium monotherapy, or placebo in patients who
had recovered and were stable.

In the study of recently depressed patients (41), both lamotrigine (200 mg/day or 400 mg/
day) and lithium (0.8–1.1 meq/liter) were superior to placebo in preventing any mood episode.
Lamotrigine, but not lithium, was superior to placebo in preventing a depressive episode. Lith-
ium, but not lamotrigine, was superior to placebo in preventing a manic, hypomanic, or mixed
episode. With the exception of rash, there were no side effects of lamotrigine that exceeded pla-
cebo. There were no serious rashes. For the lithium group, the incidence of somnolence and
tremor exceeded that of placebo.

In the study of recently manic or hypomanic patients (42), both lamotrigine (target dosage
of 200 mg/day) and lithium (0.8–1.1 meq/liter) were superior to placebo in delaying onset of
any mood episode. Lithium, but not lamotrigine, was superior to placebo in prevention of a
manic episode, but neither agent was superior to placebo in preventing depressive episodes. There
were no adverse events for which lamotrigine statistically exceeded placebo. Lithium exceeded
placebo for diarrhea only.

When the data from both studies were pooled, lamotrigine was superior to placebo in time
to intervention for any mood episode, as well as for prevention of depressive episodes and manic,
hypomanic, or mixed episodes (43). Similarly, lithium was superior to placebo in time to in-
tervention for a mood episode and for prevention of a manic, hypomanic, or mixed episode.
Lithium was not superior to placebo in prevention of a depressed episode.

Given the results from these studies, both lamotrigine and lithium appear to have substantial
utility in the maintenance treatment of patients with bipolar disorder. The utility of lamotrigine
was somewhat greater for the prevention of depressive compared with manic episodes, and the
opposite is true for lithium.

Guideline Watch for the Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Bipolar Disorder 5

A 47-week, randomized, double-blind study of olanzapine versus divalproex for manic or
mixed episodes was completed (44). The median time to remission was shorter for olanzapine
than for divalproex, although the remission rates at the end of the study did not differ between
agents. Adverse events for olanzapine included somnolence, dry mouth, increased appetite,
weight gain, akathisia, and high alanine aminotransferase levels, while adverse events for dival-
proex were nausea and nervousness.

A randomized, double-blind, controlled trial compared the efficacy of olanzapine and lithium
for the prevention of relapse or recurrence of a manic or mixed episode (45). In this study patients
currently experiencing a manic or mixed episode were treated acutely with olanzapine and lithium
for 6–12 weeks. Patients who achieved remission were randomly assigned to 52 weeks of olanza-
pine or lithium monotherapy. A relapse into mania or depression occurred in 30% of the olanza-
pine-treated patients and in 39% of the lithium-treated patients—an insignificant difference.
Olanzapine was superior to lithium in rates of symptomatic recurrence of mania or mixed episodes
(14% vs. 28%), but rates of depression recurrence did not differ. Treatment-emergent insomnia
was higher in the lithium group than in the olanzapine group. Among the lithium group, 26%
discontinued treatment because of side effects, compared with 19% of the olanzapine group.

A randomized, double-blind, controlled study examined the utility of continued combina-
tion treatment with a mood stabilizer (lithium, carbamazepine, or valproate) and a first-gener-
ation (typical) antipsychotic (perphenazine) (46). Immediately following remission from a
manic episode, patients were randomly assigned to remain on the combination therapy or to re-
ceive the mood stabilizer plus placebo. Among those on continued combination therapy, there
was shorter time to depressive relapse, a higher rate of discontinuation, and higher rates of dys-
phoria, depressive symptoms, and extrapyramidal symptoms. The study concluded that there
were no short-term benefits with the continuation of the first-generation antipsychotic with a
mood stabilizer; in fact, its continued use was associated with the aforementioned detrimental

However, a similar study of the second-generation antipsychotic olanzapine plus mood
stabilizer versus mood stabilizer plus placebo had somewhat different results (47). In this ran-
domized, double-blind, controlled study, patients who achieved remission after 6 weeks of
treatment with olanzapine plus either lithium or valproate received continued lithium or
valproate plus olanzapine or plus placebo for 18 months. There were no differences in time to
relapse into mania or depression between the monotherapy and combination therapy groups,
but combination therapy was significantly better for prevention of symptomatic relapse. Com-
bination therapy was associated with increased somnolence, weight gain, and tremor.

Psychosocial interventions
Knowledge of the utility of psychosocial interventions has expanded recently. Family-focused
therapy is a manualized psychosocial program involving all available family members in which
weekly psychoeducation, communication enhancement training, and problem-solving skills
training occur adjunctively with pharmacotherapy. A 2-year randomized, controlled study of
family-focused therapy plus pharmacotherapy versus a crisis management intervention and
pharmacotherapy (supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Na-
tional Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia, and the MacArthur Foundation) found that
postepisode symptomatic adjustment and drug adherence were enhanced with the family-
focused therapy and pharmacotherapy combination compared with the other (48). Patients in
the group receiving family-focused therapy had fewer relapses and longer survival intervals.

Another randomized, controlled study examined the utility of cognitive therapy in conjunc-
tion with pharmacotherapy over a 12-month period (49). Those treated with cognitive therapy
and pharmacotherapy had significantly fewer bipolar episodes, days in an episode, and number
of admissions.

6 APA Practice Guidelines

Two controlled studies (supported by grants from the Stanley Medical Research Institute,
the Instituto de Salud Carlos III, the Fundació Marató de TV3, and the Fundació María Fran-
cisca Roviralta) of a longitudinal (21-session) psychoeducational program were conducted in
Spain (50, 51). In both studies psychoeducation reduced recurrences over 2 years. Psychoedu-
cation enhanced lifestyle regularity and early syndrome detection.

A recent study (supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health) found
that a psychosocial intervention focused on addressing interpersonal problems and regulating
social rhythms during acute treatment in bipolar I patients extended the time to new episode
and reduced the likelihood of recurrence (52).

Since the publication in 2002 of the Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Bipolar
Disorder, 2nd Edition, new options for the acute treatment of manic, mixed, or depressive epi-
sodes have emerged. Knowledge of pharmacological and psychosocial interventions for main-
tenance has also increased.

The author thanks Colleen M. Sonora, M.A., for help in preparing this guideline watch.


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8 APA Practice Guidelines

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