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Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2013 Oct-Dec;35(4):393-405. doi: 10.1590/1516-4446-2012-0999. Epub 2013 Dec 23.

Pharmacotherapy of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents: an update.

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Program for Children and Adolescents with Bipolar Disorder (ProCAB), Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Porto AlegreRS, Brazil.



To review the options for acute and maintenance pharmacological treatment of bipolar disorder in children and adolescents, including the treatment of bipolar depression and comorbid attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


Narrative review of randomized clinical trials and open-label studies published from 2000 to 2012. The PubMed and PsycINFO websites were queried. Case series were included when a higher level of evidence was not available.


Published data from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in acute mania/hypomania with significant responses are available for lithium, topiramate, risperidone, olanzapine, and aripiprazole. Open trials of lithium and lamotrigine show that these drugs may be effective in the treatment of depressive episodes. No trials of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been conducted. In the treatment of comorbid ADHD, there are encouraging findings with mixed amphetamine salts and atomoxetine; conflicting results are observed with methylphenidate.


Published RCTs of traditional mood stabilizers are scarce, but the best available evidence (results from meta-analytic regression) suggests that second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs) as a group are more effective in reducing manic symptoms. Risperidone was the only one included in head-to-head comparisons (vs. lithium and divalproex), showing superiority in terms of efficacy, but with more metabolic side effects, which were also more common in most of the SGAs. There are few studies addressing the treatment of ADHD and depression. Brazilian guidelines for the treatment of pediatric bipolar disorder should also include some SGAs (especially risperidone and aripiprazole) as first-line treatment, and these drugs should be provided by the public health services.

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