An estimated 3 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression. The mental illness causes a person to go through cycles of mania ("high" mood) and depression, mixed with periods of normal mood.
One study shows that the drug Zyprexa is even more effective than lithium, the current mood-stabilizing drug of choice, for helping people with bipolar disorder stay in remission and prevent relapses into mania. A second study shows that adding the drug Seroquel to mood stabilizers can better treat and resolve manic episodes.
Both studies were presented this week at the Third European Stanley Foundation Conference on Bipolar Disorder in Freiburg, Germany.
In the first, year-long study, researchers found that bipolar patients treated with Zyprexa relapsed into mania only half as often as those who took lithium (14% vs. 28%). Zyprexa also seemed to keep people out of the hospital compared with lithium.
Both treatments fared equally well in preventing relapses into depression.
Study researcher Frederick Goodwin, MD, director of the Center on Neuroscience, Medical Progress and Society at George Washington University, and colleagues say the findings are significant because lithium has been the gold standard in the treatment of bipolar disorder for decades. But lithium requires blood monitoring for adverse reactions, which can create problems with getting people to stay on the drug.
The researchers also found that people on Zyprexa were less likely to discontinue their medication than those on lithium.
The second study shows that the combination of the drug Seroquel and a mood stabilizer, such as lithium, is more effective than lithium alone in treating bipolar mania.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School in Boston gave 105 adults with bipolar disorder who were suffering a manic episode either 21 days of Seroquel or a placebo in addition to a mood stabilizer.
By the end of the study, those who received both drugs had a significantly greater improvement in manic symptoms. In addition, more patients in the Seroquel group experienced a complete resolution of their manic episode than those who received only mood stabilizers.