Some Drugs for Hypertension Come with Greater Risk of Mood Disorders

July 26, 2017 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

blood pressureDepression and bipolar disorder have been linked to atherosclerosis, the accumulation of fats, cholesterol, and plaques on the walls of the arteries. There is some evidence that drugs to treat hypertension may contribute to mood disorders. A large study published in the journal Hypertension in 2016 suggests that certain classes of anti-hypertensive drugs, calcium antagonists and beta blockers, may increase risk of mood disorders compared to other treatments for hypertension.

The study by researcher Angela H. Boal and colleagues used data from a hospital database to identify 144,066 patients between the ages of 40 and 80 who had taken anti-hypertensive drugs for more than 90 days. There was an independent linear connection between receiving a prescription for hypertenstion and being diagnosed with a mood disorder. Patients who took angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blocking drugs had the lowest rates of mood disorder admissions. Those taking calcium antagonists or beta blockers had an increased risk of a mood disorder, while those taking thiazide diuretics and those not taking anti-hypertensive drugs had no change in risk.

Statins Have Many Benefits

July 25, 2017 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

box of statinsPatients with mood disorders and elevated lipids, cholesterol, or triglycerides can get several benefits by taking statin drugs. Patients with depression are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke, and statins can lower these risks. Statins lower cholesterol and triglycerides.

Compared to women not taking statins, women taking this class of medications have a lower risk of depression. Men taking statins have a lower incidence of depression following a heart attack than men who are not taking statins.

Several studies over the past two decades have suggested that statins can also decrease the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, though a 2017 article by Julie M. Zissimopoulos and colleagues in the journal JAMA Neurology suggested the effectiveness of statins in preventing Alzheimer’s may depend on the race and gender of the person taking them. People with depression are at increased risk for Alzheimer’s.

Editor’s Note: Given these many benefits, it may be a good idea for patients with depression or bipolar disorder and high lipid levels to talk to their physician about whether statins would be a helpful treatment for them.

Preventing Metformin Side Effects

July 24, 2017 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

metformin tablets

Depression is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, and the drug metformin is a common treatment for diabetes. In a 2016 article in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, researcher Chittaranjan Andrade suggests ways of minimizing side effects from metformin.

Gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, flatulence, and diarrhea are common on metformin. In the article, Andrade writes, “These are less likely to occur with gradual dose uptitration, administration of the drug with meals, and use of a time-release formulation.”

Lactic acidosis, a buildup of lactate in the body that can result in muscle pain, burning, and other symptoms, is a rare side effect of metformin. Avoiding prescribing metformin to people with impaired kidney, liver, or cardiac functioning and other risk factors can prevent lactic acidosis.

Vitamin B12 absorption can also be affected by long-term metformin use. Andrade suggests that rather than waiting for a vitamin deficiency to be identified, a proactive approach should be taken. Long-term metformin users could be given an annual intramuscular shot of vitamin B12.

Topiramate Plus Antipsychotic Medication Better Than Antipsychotics Alone for Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders

May 30, 2017 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

womanA 2016 meta-analysis has shown that the combination of the anticonvulsant topiramate and antipsychotic medication reduces symptoms of schizophrenia spectrum disorders more than antipsychotic medication alone. Researchers led by Christoph U. Correll analyzed the results of eight studies in which the topiramate-antipsychotic combination was compared to antipsychotics alone or with placebo.

The combination of topiramate and antipsychotic medication was superior at reducing general psychopathology, including both negative and positive symptoms of schizophrenia. The combination was also associated with lower body weight and body mass index (BMI) compared to antipsychotics alone.

The studies included in the meta-analysis used a variety of antipsychotic medications. When these were compared, the combination of topiramate and clozapine was more effective than other combinations at reducing psychopathology. However, the combination of topiramate and clozapine was also associated with less weight loss than combinations using other antipsychotics.

In terms of side effects, topiramate was associated with more paresthesia (a burning or prickling sensation, often in the hands or feet) than placebo.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

FDA Approves Treatment for Tardive Dyskinesia

May 26, 2017 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

facesA new drug valbenazine (trade name Ingrezza) has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of tardive dyskinesia. Tardive dyskinesia, a side effect of long-term use of antipsychotic medication, consists of involuntary movements of the tongue, face, torso, arms, and legs. It can interfere with walking, talking, and breathing.

The approval followed 20 clinical trials of valbenazine that included a total of more than 1000 participants who had symptoms of tardive dyskinesia in addition to schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder.

In a 2017 article in the American Journal of Psychiatry, researcher Robert A. Hauser and colleagues reported that patients who received 80 mg/day of valbenazine had a significant reduction in tardive dyskinesia symptoms after six weeks compared to those who received placebo. Participants who received 40 mg/day of valbenazine also had reductions in symptoms, although not as dramatic as with the higher dose.

Serious side effects of valbenazine include sleepiness and lengthening of the QT interval, which can increase heart arrhythmias. The FDA notes that people who already have abnormal heartbeats due to a long QT interval should not take valbenazine. In addition, people taking the drug should avoid driving or operating heavy machinery until they know how valbenazine affects them.

Lithium Responders and Non-Responders Have Different Neuron Characteristics

May 22, 2017 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 
after hyperpolarization

After hyperpolarization (via Wikimedia Commons)

A 2017 study in the journal Molecular Psychiatry suggests that by observing the neurons of a person with bipolar disorder, you can predict whether they will respond to lithium treatment. The drug is effective in approximately 30% of those to whom it is prescribed.

Researchers led by Shani Stern and Renata Santos used stem cell research to analyze neurons from people with bipolar disorder and healthy controls.

People with bipolar disorder shared some neuron features, namely a large, fast after-hyperpolarization (a phase in which the cell’s membrane changes), which is followed by a resting period before the neuron can fire again. The large, fast hyperpolarization in people with bipolar disorder speeds up this cycle, leading to fast and sustained neuron firing. This replicated previous findings by the same researchers, which found that people with bipolar disorder are more sensitive to stimuli. In people with bipolar disorder, the threshold for a neuron to fire drops with each subsequent after-hyperpolarization.

Chronic lithium treatment reduced this hyperexcitability in some patients—and these were the patients who had a good response to lithium treatment.

Among the study participants with bipolar disorder, there were differences in the neuron profiles of those who responded well to lithium versus those who did not.

Stern and colleagues programmed a computer to recognize the electrophysiological features of neurons from lithium responders and non-responders. The computer could then analyze the neurons of a patient whose response to lithium was unknown and predict with a greater than 92% success rate whether that patient had responded well to lithium treatment.

Adherence to Antidepressants Associated with Lower Mortality

April 28, 2017 · Posted in Course of Illness, Current Treatments · Comment 

man taking an antidepressant

A large study from Israel suggests that over a 4-year period, people who regularly took their prescribed antidepressants were less likely to die of any cause during that period.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in 2016, used data from an Israeli health provider that covers 53% of the nation’s population. It included 251,745 patients aged 40 and up who filled a prescription for an antidepressant at least once between 2008 and 2011.

Researchers led by Amir Krivoy looked at how much of the time people actually filled their prescriptions. Patients who filled their prescriptions more of the time were less likely to die during the study period than those who did not fill their prescriptions regularly.

Editor’s Note: This study by Krivoy and colleagues provides more evidence of the benefit of long-term antidepressants. People who have had two or three episodes of unipolar depression should consider long-term prevention with antidepressants over the course of their lifetime, in the way that people take blood pressure medications long-term to prevent heart attacks. In addition to lowering mortality, antidepressants also reduce the rate of relapse by 75% compared to placebo. More time on antidepressants also preserves hippocampal volume with aging.

Therapy Reduces Relapses, Promotes Medication Adherence

April 19, 2017 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

woman speaking with therapist

A 2017 meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Psychiatry indicates that psychosocial interventions were linked to reduced relapse rates, better adherence to medication, and other benefits in people with bipolar disorder. The meta-analysis by researcher Mary Lou Chatterton and colleagues evaluated data from 41 studies with a total of 3,119 participants. The studies examined psychosocial interventions such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychoeducation, and family-focused therapy compared to treatment as usual.

Chatterton and colleagues found that interventions that targeted family members who act as caregivers reduced manic and depressive relapse rates. Combined psychoeducation and cognitive-behavioral therapy was more successful than any other intervention, and had a large effect in reducing symptoms of mania. This combination also improved general functioning. Psychoeducation alone and in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy reduced medication non-adherence. Unfortunately, no intervention reduced depressive symptoms.

Mood Stabilizers with Atypical Antipsychotics Reduce Relapses Compared to Mood Stabilizers Alone or with Typical Antipsychotics

April 18, 2017 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

Retired mature man sitting on couch and looking at camera.

An Israeli study reports that treatment with mood stabilizers and atypical antipsychotics reduces bipolar relapses compared to treatment with mood stabilizers alone or mood stabilizers combined with typical antipsychotics. The study, by Eldar Hochman and colleagues in the journal Bipolar Disorders, compared one-year hospitalization rates after patients with bipolar disorder were discharged from the hospital following a manic episode. All of the 201 discharged patients were prescribed a mood stabilizer (lithium or valproate), and some were also prescribed an antipsychotic, either atypical or typical.

Those participants who received the combination of a mood stabilizer and an atypical antipsychotic had re-hospitalization rates of 6.3% compared to 24.3% of those who received mood stabilizers alone and 20.6% of those who received mood stabilizers with a typical antipsychotic.

While the study did not determine which treatment is best for ongoing maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder, it does suggest that the combination of mood stabilizers and atypical antipsychotics can reduce hospitalizations during the one-year period following a manic episode.

Lithium May Reduce Cancer Risk

April 17, 2017 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

smiling senior asian man

New research suggests that cumulative exposure to lithium may correlate with reduced cancer risk in patients with bipolar disorder. A 2016 article by Yi-Hsin Yang and colleagues in the British Journal of Psychiatry reports findings from a Taiwanese population database study of 4,729 adult patients with bipolar disorder, 115 of whom were diagnosed with cancer. Those who had been prescribed lithium (with or without anticonvulsants) had lower rates of cancer (1.96%) than those who received only anticonvulsants (2.65%).

Incidence of cancer was higher among the patients with bipolar disorder than the general population in the study. Other studies have indicated that cancer risk is higher among people with bipolar disorder than those without.

Those people who took a recommended maintenance lithium dose for 215 days or longer had a 44.8% lower risk of cancer than those who took only anticonvulsants.

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