European Neuropsychopharmacology (v.13, #S2)

Foreword (vii).

Issues in the treatment of bipolar disorder by Siegfried Kasper (37-42).
Bipolar disorder is a chronic, recurring illness that requires long-term prophylactic treatment. However, treatment is often complicated by misdiagnosis and inappropriate medication selection. A number of therapies are available for the treatment of bipolar disorder and the ultimate therapeutic choice depends on the individual patient’s current symptoms, disease history, and comorbid illnesses. However, research is needed to improve the overall prognosis for patients with bipolar depression, particularly because approximately 20% of patients commit suicide. Mania is the most dramatic expression of bipolar disorder and may overshadow the impact of the depressive phase of the illness. Compared with mania, episodes of bipolar depression are more frequent, of longer duration, and are associated with higher rates of morbidity and mortality. Therefore, successful treatment and prevention of bipolar depression remains an essential treatment goal.
Keywords: Bipolar disorder; Diagnosis; Lamotrigine; Long-term; Treatment;

Diagnostic issues in bipolar disorder by Jules Angst; Alex Gamma; Franco Benazzi; Vladeta Ajdacic; Dominique Eich; Wulf Rössler (43-50).
Bipolar disorder is a highly recurrent and chronic psychiatric condition that shortens life expectancy, causes functional impairment and disruption to social, work and family life. Several forms of bipolar disorder are recognised, including both bipolar I and bipolar II disorder. Bipolar I is characterised by recurrent episodes of depression and mania whereas bipolar II disorder is characterised by recurrent depression and hypomania, a milder form of mania. There has been debate concerning the definition of hypomania since at least the 1970s. The main areas of argument focus on the minimum duration of hypomania, its stem criteria and the number of symptoms required for diagnosis. Arriving at the correct definition of hypomania is a key diagnostic issue. There is increasing evidence for the existence of a broad spectrum of bipolar disorders, and data demonstrating the clinical validity of modifying some of the criteria for hypomania are reviewed here.
Keywords: Bipolar disorder; Hypomania; Soft bipolar criteria; Minor bipolar disorder;

Latest maintenance data on lithium in bipolar disorder by Guy M Goodwin; John R Geddes (51-55).
Although lithium is generally considered to be the gold standard for maintenance therapy in bipolar disorder, evidence of its efficacy has rested on only a small number of adequately designed studies. Results from the lamotrigine bipolar trials, which included lithium as an active comparator, will substantially increase confidence in long-term lithium treatment. In a meta-analysis of these data, lithium was significantly more effective than placebo in preventing relapse in patients with bipolar disorder (relative risk [RR] 0.65; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.50, 0.84). Furthermore, lithium had significant efficacy against manic relapse (RR 0.61; 95% CI 0.39, 0.95), with a less substantial, not statistically significant, effect against depressive relapse (RR 0.72; 95% CI 0.49, 1.07). Factors such as disease subtype, likelihood of adherence to treatment regimen, tolerability, and dose uncertainty should be considered in the selection of lithium maintenance therapy.
Keywords: Lithium; Lamotrigine; Bipolar disorder; Maintenance therapy; Manic relapse; Depressive relapse;

Latest maintenance data on lamotrigine in bipolar disorder by Joseph R Calabrese; Eduard Vieta; Melvin D Shelton (57-66).
Two 18-month, randomised, double-blind trials have compared lamotrigine, lithium, and placebo as maintenance treatment in a total of 1315 recently manic or depressed patients with bipolar I disorder. Individual and combined analyses of these studies showed that both lamotrigine and lithium significantly prolonged the time to intervention for any mood episode compared with placebo. Lamotrigine was primarily effective against depression and lithium was primarily effective against mania. There was no evidence that lamotrigine induced mania/hypomania/mixed states, caused episode acceleration, or destabilised the overall course of illness. Lamotrigine was well tolerated, with a placebo-like adverse-event profile. In summary, lamotrigine is an effective and well-tolerated maintenance treatment for bipolar I disorder, providing a spectrum of efficacy complementary to that of lithium.
Keywords: Lamotrigine; Lithium; Bipolar disorder; Maintenance treatment; Rash; Mood Stabilisers; Manic depression;