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J Affect Disord. 2012 Dec 20;143(1-3):27-33. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.05.053. Epub 2012 Jun 30.

Subtypes of antipsychotics and suicidal behavior in bipolar disorder.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, 16111 Plummer St. (116A-11), North Hills, CA 91343, USA.



Antipsychotics are commonly used in bipolar disorder, with newer (SGA) agents increasingly replacing FGA antipsychotics, particularly in bipolar depression. There are few data on differences between FGA and SGA antipsychotics in terms of their relationship to suicidal behavior in bipolar disorder.


This was a retrospective chart review of 161 bipolar veterans treated naturalistically with antipsychotics at a university-affiliated VA hospital and clinics for up to 8 years. Charts were reviewed to determine monthly antipsychotic use and occurrence of suicidal behavior: completed suicide, attempted suicide or hospitalization to prevent suicide. Suicidal behavior events were compared across patients during treatment with individual antipsychotics and FGAs or SGAs as a class.


Non-lethal suicide events were more common during FGA than SGA monotherapy (9 events/110 months of exposure vs. 6 events/381 months of exposure; χ(2)=9.65, p=0.002). Suicide event rates did not differ between FGAs and SGAs when used in conjunction with mood stabilizers. Event rates were lower with lithium than anticonvulsants when used in conjunction with antipsychotics. No differences were found between olanzapine, risperidone and quetiapine.


The retrospective chart review methodology may have led to confounding by indication and diagnostic inaccuracy. No completed suicides occurred. Study participants were primarily male veterans. Results may not be generalizable to SGAs marketed since 2003.


FGA antipsychotic monotherapy may be associated with higher suicidal behavior risk than SGA antipsychotic monotherapy. Antipsychotics used in conjunction with mood stabilizers, particularly lithium, are associated with lower rates, independent of antipsychotic subtype.

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