Pimavanserin Prevents Relapse in Patients with Dementia-Related Psychosis

February 22, 2021 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 
elderly man holds his head

At a recent scientific meeting, Erin Foff of Acadia Pharmaceuticals Inc. described a study of pimavanserin (a selective serotonin inverse agonist/antagonist at 5-HT2A receptors) in dementia-related psychosis. Pimavanserin is currently approved in the United States for the treatment of hallucinations and delusions associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD). There is currently no Food and Drug Administration–approved treatment for dementia-related psychosis.

Enrolled patients had moderate-to-severe psychosis associated with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, dementia with Lewy bodies, vascular dementia, or frontotemporal dementia. After a 12-week open label phase with flexible dosing and a target dosage of 34mg/day, 217 of the participants with a good response to pimavanserin were then randomized to continue pimavanserin or switch to placebo. The study was stopped early when a prespecified interim analysis revealed that pimavanserin was clearly superior to placebo. There was a more than 2.8-fold reduction in risk of relapse with pimavanserin compared to placebo in the double-blind period. Those on higher doses of 34mg/day showed a more than 3.4-fold reduced risk of relapse. Acadia will seek FDA approval for pimavanserin for the treatment of dementia-related psychosis.

Lumateperone Improves Bipolar Depression Symptoms

February 18, 2021 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 
elderly woman

At a recent scientific meeting, Suresh Durgam of Intra-Cellular Therapies, Inc. reported on a study of lumateperone tosylate for the treatment of bipolar depression. Lumateperone tosylate is a mechanistically novel antipsychotic that has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of schizophrenia.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, the drug showed efficacy in bipolar I and II depression. In a 6-week study, 377 patients received either 42 mg/day of lumateperone or placebo, and 333 (87.4%) completed treatment. Lumateperone treatment significantly improved total scores on the Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) compared with placebo. Item analysis revealed that 8 of 10 MADRS items improved significantly in comparison with placebo by day 29, and all items did by day 43. The largest effects were in reported sadness, apparent sadness, inner tension and reduced sleep. Durgam and colleagues concluded that lumateperone at a dose of 42mg improves a broad range of symptoms in bipolar I and bipolar II depression.

Increased Oxygen Improves Depression

February 15, 2021 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

At a recent scientific meeting, researcher R. Haim Belmaker reported that giving mildly to moderately depressed adults a nasal tube that delivers extra oxygen overnight for four weeks produced dramatic antidepressant effects. A total of 55 participants aged 18–65 years old were randomized to receive either normal room air (made up of about 21% oxygen), or hyperoxia (air containing about 35% oxygen). There was greater improvement on several different depression rating scales, including the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, the Clinical Global Impression Scale, and the Sheehan Disability Scale, among those who received hyperoxia than among those who received normal air.

According to Belmaker, 69% of the patients who were treated with oxygen-enriched air improved on the CGI scale, compared to only 23% patients who were treated with room air. Limitations of the study were its small sample size and the lack of a clear biological mechanism for the effects of increased oxygen.

Childhood Physical Abuse Predicts Response to IV Ketamine

February 11, 2021 · Posted in Potential Treatments, Risk Factors · Comment 
Nurse Giving Patient Injection

At a recent scientific meeting, researcher Alan Swann reported the results of a study of intravenous ketamine in people with treatment-resistant depression. The 385 participants, who received four infusions of IV ketamine at a dosage of 0.5 mg/kg, could be grouped into three based on their type of response to the treatment.

One group had moderate depression at baseline and showed little change. A second group with severe baseline depression also showed minimal improvement. A third group who also had severe baseline depression had a rapid and robust antidepressant response to the treatment. This group had high scores relating to physical abuse on the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), but did not differ on other clinical variables. Swann and colleagues concluded, “Our outcomes show that IV ketamine should be considered as a primary treatment option for adults presenting with severe, treatment resistant depression and a self-reported history of childhood physical abuse. IV ketamine may not be as effective for moderately depressed individuals irrespective of childhood maltreatment.”

Sunovion Drug in Development Targets 5HT7 and D2 Receptors to Treat Bipolar Depression

February 8, 2021 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 
Depressed woman

At a recent meeting, President and CEO of Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Antony Loebel presented the results of a recent double-blind, placebo controlled study of a drug in development for the treatment of bipolar depression, currently known as SEP-4199. The drug has a fixed ratio of 85% aramisulpride and 15% esamisulpride that target serotonin 5-HT7 receptors and dopamine D2 receptors, respectively. The drug was optimized to amplify the antidepressant effects that come from affecting 5-HT7 while minimizing D2-related side effects.

A total of 344 patients were randomized into three equal groups, in which patients received placebo or a fixed dose of SEP-4199, either 200mg/day or 400mg/day.

The results were promising. After 6 weeks, scores on the Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) were higher among patients who received SEP-4199. The results were very close to statistical significance (p=0.054), with the placebo group showing a large improvement that may have contributed to the lack of difference across groups. In each dosage group, there was greater improvement in MADRS scores than was seen in the placebo group. There was also greater improvement on the Quick Inventory of Depression Symptomatology (QIDS-SR-16) and on the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A) in each dosage group compared to placebo.

Loebel concluded that the results showed proof of concept for the use of SEP-4199 to treat bipolar depression, and they plan to continue their research on the drug.

No Association of Benzodiazepines, Z Drugs and Other Anxiolytics with Dementia

October 13, 2020 · Posted in Current Treatments, Risk Factors · Comment 

Benzodiazepines, so-called Z-drugs (such as zolpidem, zopiclone, and zaleplon), and other anxiolytics are commonly prescribed drugs that have some cognitive side effects. For this reason, there has been concern that the drugs may increase risk of dementia, and small studies had suggested that this might be the case. However, a new large study found no subsequent dementia risk after taking these drugs.

In a 2020 article in the American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers Merete Osler and Martin Balslev Jørgensen described a cohort and nested case-control study of 235,465 adult patients in Denmark in which they found no association of benzodiazepines, Z-drugs, or other anxiolytics with a subsequent diagnosis of dementia. Participants were patients over the age of 20 who were hospitalized for an affective disorder. Of these, 75.9% had been prescribed one of the drugs in question, and 4.2% went on to be diagnosed with dementia.

While participants in this study who had the lowest use of benzodiazepines or Z drugs showed a minimal increased risk of dementia compared to those who took none of these drugs, those who had the highest use of benzodiazepines and Z drugs actually had the lowest incidence of dementia in the study.

The previous studies may have been “confounded by indication” meaning they did not take the underlying psychiatric condition for which the drugs were prescribed into account.

Characteristics of Youth with Bipolar Spectrum Disorders

October 5, 2020 · Posted in Diagnosis, Risk Factors · Comment 

In a 2020 article in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, researcher Gonzalo Salazar de Pablo and colleagues described characteristics of youth with three different bipolar spectrum disorders: bipolar I disorder, bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (NOS) and mood disorder (MD) not otherwise specified. The participants were hospitalized adolescents aged 12–18 years, who were highly impaired with hallucinations, delusions, incoherence, or inability to function.

Mania (especially irritability) and depressive symptoms were common in all three groups.

Many of the youths had comorbid conditions. Approximately 40% of each diagnosis group had an anxiety disorder. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was seen in 29.2% of those with bipolar I disorder, 34.5% of those with bipolar NOS, and 43.5% of those with mood disorder NOS. Oppositional defiant disorder was seen in just over 20% of those with bipolar I or bipolar NOS, and just over 30% of those with mood disorder NOS. Substance use disorders were seen in 8.3% of those with bipolar I and about 21% of those with bipolar NOS or mood disorder NOS. Many of the participants had moderate to severe suicidality.

The median delay before the adolescents received treatment for their moderate to severe symptoms was 21 to 25 weeks. After discharge from the hospital, the adolescents with bipolar I, bipolar NOS, and mood disorder NOS were typically treated with atypical antipsychotics (79.2%, 62.1%, and 56.5%, respectively), mood stabilizers (66.7%, 31.0%, and 34.8%), and lithium (58.3%, 20.7%, 30.4%), with greater use of mood stabilizers and lithium than on admission and less use of antidepressants. Few children were on ADHD medications on admission, and even fewer (4-9%) on discharge.

The authors conclude: “Youth with BD-I, BD-NOS, and MD-NOS experience considerable symptomatology and are functionally impaired, with few differences observed in psychiatric comorbidity and clinical severity. Moreover, youth with BD-NOS and MD-NOS undergo a [long] period with subthreshold manic symptoms, enabling identification and, possibly, preventive intervention of those at risk for developing [bipolar disorder] or other affective episodes requiring hospitalization.”

Editor’s Note: These findings replicate many others in the field indicating that children with bipolar spectrum disorders, even those with symptoms short of a full-blown bipolar I diagnosis, are highly impaired with multiple comorbidities and high levels of suicidality and other dangerous symptoms. These patients deserve systematic pharmacological intervention based on an extensive clinical treatment literature.

The only thing the authors failed to address is that not only does no such clinical treatment literature exist, but there does not seem to be any recognition by the National Institute of Mental Health and other funding bodies that a series of treatment-oriented studies in children and adolescents is urgently needed.

The 2010 epidemiological studies of Kathleen Merikangas and colleagues indicate that 2.2% of adolescents have a bipolar spectrum diagnosis and that 80% of those young people are not in any kind of treatment. This is in part driven by a lack of consensus about appropriate treatment. The magnitude and seriousness of this illness creating lifelong problems, disability, cognitive impairment, and the loss of more than a decade of life expectancy is a public health catastrophe.

In the 1980s, AIDS protesters had to raise awareness, protest, and clamor for treatment studies in a highly confrontational manner before AIDS research was appropriate funded. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease since 1984, has said he was finally convinced that the AIDS protestors were correct, and he then joined forces with them to foster and accelerate treatment studies. The prognosis for AIDS changed from certain death in the 1980s to a manageable illness today.

We need leaders to demand attention to the lack of studies in bipolar disorder at a threshold that cannot be ignored by leaders of the NIMH. Patient advocacy groups must push the NIMH to fund treatment studies for bipolar disorder. It is clear that without some new form of pressure, the NIMH will fail in its stated mission to help make the lives of those with serious mental illness less grave. The current generation and many in the future generations of patients with bipolar disorder will otherwise face disaster.

Lurasidone Effective Long-Term in Pediatric Bipolar Depression

September 30, 2020 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

At the 2020 meeting of the American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology, researcher Manpreet Singh presented data showing that children aged 10–17 with bipolar depression had an excellent long-term response to the antipsychotic medication lurasidone (trade name Latuda).

Lurasidone has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as a monotherapy treatment of bipolar depression in children and adolescents since 2018. Following a six-week double-blind study comparing lurasidone with placebo in 305 children and adolescents, Singh and colleagues carried out an open-label extension study in which all of the young participants, including those in the placebo group, had the option of taking lurasidone for up to two more years.

Of those, 195 children completed one year of treatment, and 93 completed two years of treatment. Rates of response were 51.0% after the six-week preliminary study; 88.4% at one year; and 91.1% at two years. Rates of remission were 24.3% after the six-week study; 61.3% at one year, and 75.6% at two years, while rates of recovery were 17.7% after the preliminary study; 53.8% at one year; and 73.8% at two years.

This improvement in depression had a strong correlation with improvement in functioning, as measured by the Children’s Global Assessment score (CGAS). The results show progressive increases in rates of response, remission, and recovery with duration of treatment that are associated with improvement in functioning.

In Phase 3 Clinical Trials, Antipsychotic Treatment Lumateperone Is Found Effective in Bipolar Depression

September 21, 2020 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 
Photo by ben o’bro on Unsplash

Lumateperone is an antipsychotic medication that is currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of schizophrenia (under the trade name Caplyta). New studies suggest that the drug is also effective in bipolar I and bipolar II depression.

Lumateperone modulates the activity of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate. It modulates D1 and D2 dopamine receptors, partially activating presynaptic receptors while partially blocking postsynaptic receptors. Lumateperone acts as an antagonist blocking serotonin 5-HT2A receptors, and it augments activity at both NMDA and AMPA glutamate receptors.

Because of lumateperone’s complex pharmacology, it is not clear which of these activities are primarily responsible for its antidepressant and antipsychotic activities.

New research presented at the 2020 meeting of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders showed that lumateperone reduces bipolar depression.

Researcher Susan Kozauer presented research from a six-week study of 377 patients who were randomized to receive treatment with either 42mg of lumateperone (n=188), taken once daily in the evening, or placebo (n=189). The patients had been diagnosed with bipolar I or II disorder and were experiencing an episode of major depression.

Patients taking lumateperone saw significantly greater improvement in depression than those in the placebo group. Among those taking lumateperone, 60% of those who were markedly ill or worse at baseline improved to mildly ill or better, compared to 43% of those taking placebo.

Researcher Suresh Durgam described improvements in specific symptoms that make up the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) in those patients who received lumateperone. The greatest improvements compared to placebo were in sadness, inner tension, and reduced sleep. By the 29th day of the study, 8 of 10 items on the scale had improved significantly compared to placebo, and all items had improved by day 43.

The side-effects profile of lumateperone was presented by researcher Lakshmi Yatham.

Among those taking lumateperone, 8.5% experienced sleepiness compared to 1.1% of those in the placebo group, while 6.4% of the lumateperone group experienced nausea compared to 2.1% of the placebo group. Most effects were mild or moderate in severity. Changes in weight, metabolic measures, extrapyramidal motor effects, and prolactin were minimal in both the lumateperone group and the placebo group.

Editor’s Note: Lumateperone (Caplyta) joins a list of other atypicals that are efficacious in bipolar depression. These include olanzapine-fluoxetine (Symbyax), quetiapine (Seroquel), lurasidone (Latuda), and cariprazine (Vraylar). Lumateperone is currently only FDA-approved for schizophrenia, but approval for bipolar depression should be rapidly forthcoming based on the data presented at the ISBD meeting.

Bipolar depression used to be an orphan diagnosis, with few efficacious treatments. This is now beginning to change, and treating patients with bipolar disorder using antidepressants designed to treat unipolar depression (for which there is little evidence of efficacy) should begin to recede.

Early Precursors of Mood Disorders in Young Children of Parents with Bipolar or Unipolar Disorder

July 24, 2020 · Posted in Course of Illness, Risk Factors · Comment 

At the 2020 meeting of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders, researcher Caroline Vandeleur presented findings from a 13-year study of children in Switzerland who have a parent with bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder. In contrast to findings from the US presented by Danella Hafeman, Vandeleur and colleagues found no evidence of psychopathology in 4 year-olds. They did find that in 7-year-olds, children of a parent with major depressive disorder were four times more likely to have a separation anxiety disorder. In an overall sample of 449 children with a mean age of 10 who were followed up for 13 years, major depression tended to be preceded by anxiety disorders. Participants who went on to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder had earlier symptoms of depression, subthreshold hypomania, conduct disorders, and drug abuse. These were especially common in those who had a parent with bipolar disorder.

Editor’s Note: These data indirectly confirm other observations in which children at high risk for mood disorders in the US showed earlier signs of psychopathology than those in other countries including the Netherlands and Canada.

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