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J Clin Psychiatry. 2002;63 Suppl 10:18-22.

Long-term treatment of bipolar disorder with lamotrigine.

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Bipolar depression is as debilitating as mania in bipolar disorder, but the treatment of bipolar depression has historically received less attention. To date, there is no mood stabilizer (liberally defined as a medication that decreases episode severity, duration, or frequency in one phase of bipolar illness without producing a negative effect in other phases) that demonstrates similar efficacy in both the depressive and the manic phases of bipolar disorder. However, bipolar depression--which is prevalent, sometimes chronic, and associated with a low quality of life and a high risk of suicide--must be addressed as energetically as mania. Recent research into the long-term treatment of bipolar disorder has raised several questions about the generalizability of early lithium studies, as a result of these studies' designs. Researchers conducting more recent studies of mood stabilizers in the long-term treatment of bipolar disorder have attempted to clarify their results by, for example, performing survival analyses of the data. Until pharmacotherapy has been found that is equally efficacious in the treatment of both manic and depressive episodes in bipolar disorder, the use of combination therapy to manage bipolar disorder is advised. Lithium and divalproex sodium remain the first-line treatments for mania. Lamotrigine has been found to have acute efficacy in treating episodes of bipolar depression without increasing cycling or provoking a switch into mania, as well as a long-term role in delaying relapse and recurrence of depressive episodes.

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