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Actas Esp Psiquiatr. 2006 Jan-Feb;34(1):55-64.

[Use of antiepileptic drugs in bipolar disorder].

[Article in Spanish]

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Servicio de Farmacología Clínica, Hospital Universitario Marqués de Valdecilla, Universidad de Cantabria, Santander.



Bipolar disorder is a chronic disease difficult to treat that generates a high degree of incapacity. Although lithium remains the first choice drug, some patients do not respond and others show adverse reactions. One alternative to lithium is the use of certain antiepileptic drugs. Data on the efficacy of old and new antiepileptic drugs in bipolar disorder obtained in controlled clinical trials are reviewed.


Results in many clinical trial support the use of some old antiepileptic drugs such as carbamazepine and sodium valproate in monotherapy in the acute treatment of severe, mixed or mild manic episodes as well as in the management treatment of bipolar disorder. Overall, new antiepileptic drugs show a better profile of adverse reactions with fewer interactions than lithium, but data on their efficacy in bipolar disorder remain scarce. Oxcarbazepine efficacy in mania is similar to that of the carbamazepine. Lamotrigine is becoming the best alternative to lithium in depressive episodes. Topiramate does not appear to be effective in acute treatment of manic episodes. Levetiracetam seems to produce some benefits, but controlled, randomized and double blind clinical trials are not yet available. Data on gabapentin efficacy are controversial.


Although lithium is still the first choice for the treatment of bipolar disorder, carbamazepine and valproate are also first choice drugs. Oxcarbazepine and lamotrigine may be a good option in some patients. Other new antiepileptic drugs may also be effective in bipolar disorder but more solid evidence of their efficacy is needed.

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