FDA Approves Extended-Release Aripiprazole Injected Monthly to Prevent Manic and Mixed Episodes in Bipolar I

November 17, 2017 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

abilify maintena

In 2017 the US Food and Drug Administration approved a monthly injectable form of the atypical antipsychotic drug aripiprazole, Abilify Maintena, for the prevention of manic and mixed episodes in bipolar I disorder. The intramuscular injections are available for monotherapy in preparations of 300 mg or 400 mg. Maintena did not prevent depressive episodes.

Maintena is already FDA-approved for the treatment of schizophrenia and Tourette’s syndrome in adults.

The approval for bipolar I disorder follows a 52-week phase 3, double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial. Participants were experiencing a manic episode during screening for the study, met the criteria for bipolar I disorder, and had had at least one prior manic or mixed episode severe enough to require treatment.

Compared to placebo, Maintena in once-a-month injections delayed the recurrence of any mood episode following the initial manic episode at screening. When the researchers separated their analysis based on type of episode, Maintena reduced manic and mixed episodes compared to placebo, but did not do a better job than placebo at preventing depressive episodes.

An oral antipsychotic must be administered for 14 days following the first injection of Maintena. The extended-release injection is available as 300 mg– or 400 mg–strength powder that may be reconstituted, or as prefilled syringes.

Editor’s Note: Because Maintena is delivered as a once-a-month injection, it may be helpful for patients who struggle to take daily oral medications.

Midday Bright Light Therapy Improved Bipolar Depression

November 15, 2017 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

light therapy

A study by Dorothy S. Kit and colleagues published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2017 found that delivering bright white light therapy to patients with bipolar depression between the hours of noon and 2:30pm improved their depression compared to delivering inactive dim light, and did not cause mood switches into mania. The study included 46 patients with moderate bipolar depression, no hypomania and no psychosis.

The active therapy group was exposed to broad-spectrum bright white fluorescent light at 7,000 Lux while the inactive group received dim red light at 50 Lux. Both groups were instructed to sit 12 inches from the light and face it without looking directly at it. The therapy began with 15-minute afternoon sessions and increased to 60 minutes per day by 4 weeks. Participants were assessed weekly. Remission rates increased dramatically in the active group beginning in the fourth week. At weeks 4 through 6, the remission rate for those in the active bright light group was 68.2% compared to only 22.2% in the dim light group.

Mean depression scores were better in the treated group, as were global functioning and response rates.

Some participants were taking antidepressants concurrently, and these participants were evenly distributed across the two study groups.

An earlier pilot study by the same researchers had found that bright light therapy delivered in the morning was followed by some hypomanic reactions or bipolar cycling. The midday sessions did not cause any mood switching.

Bright light therapy is often used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) using a 10,000 Lux light box. This study took place mostly during the fall and winter months.

Editor’s Note: Bright light therapy is generally safe and boasts a high remission rate. Light boxes can be acquired without a prescription and are portable and easy to use. Midday light may have the best results and the least risk of provoking a mood switch into mania.

Study Suggests Magnesium Could Improve Mild to Moderate Depression as Much as SSRIs

November 13, 2017 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

foods with magnesium

Researcher Emily Tarleton and colleagues report in a 2017 article in the journal PLoS One that over-the-counter magnesium may improve mild to moderate unipolar depression with efficacy similar to that of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. Magnesium is a mineral that can fight inflammation.

The 126 participants in the open study had an average age of 52. Compared to not taking magnesium, taking 248 mg/day of magnesium produced statistically significant improvement in depression and anxiety symptoms after only two weeks.

The magnesium was well-tolerated by participants. Tarleton and colleagues hope to replicate their findings with a larger and more diverse population.

Making Lithium Treatment More Tolerable For Patients

November 9, 2017 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

taking lithiumIn a slideshow at Psychiatric Times, Chris Aiken describes seven ways to improve lithium’s tolerability.  Since many researchers, including BNN Editor-in-Chief Robert M. Post, have suggested that lithium should be used more often as a treatment for bipolar disorder, ways of making its side effects more manageable are of great interest. Here we summarize Dr. Aiken’s seven points and add a few perspectives of our own.

Aiken writes that “when it comes to the side effects that matter most to patients—sedation, weight gain, and cognition—lithium’s tolerability ranks right behind lamotrigine.”  In fact, lithium plus lamotrigine is an excellent combination, as lithium excels at preventing manias while lamotrigine excels at depression prevention.

Post’s philosophy is that many of lithium’s side effects can be avoided in the first place through judicious dose titration. He suggests gradually increasing dosage, and stopping before side effects become difficult, or reducing a dosage that has already become a problem. The idea is to avoid lithium side effects even if blood levels of lithium remain below clinically therapeutic levels. Post suggests using lithium at whatever dose is not associated with side effects.

Many of lithium’s positive therapeutic effects emerge at low doses, and if this improvement is insufficient, the rest of the needed efficacy can be achieved by adding other medications. As noted above, lamotrigine is a good option for break-through depression, as is lurasidone. For breakthrough mania, the mood stabilizers valproate and carbamazepine or an atypical antipsychotic can be added to lithium.

A little-appreciated option for enhancing lithium’s mood stabilizing effects is nimodipine, a dihydropyridine calcium blocker. It has both antimanic and antidepressant efficacy without lithium’s side effects. Research showed that a year on the combination of lithium and nimodipine was more effective than a year of either drug alone.

If a patient taking lithium experiences a tremor at a dose that is not fully effective, nimodipine can be added in order to lower the lithium dose enough to eliminate the tremor.
Nimodipine specifically blocks the calcium influx gene CACNA1C that has been repeatedly been associated with the vulnerability to bipolar disorder and depression.

If side effects do occur on lithium, they can often be managed. The following suggestions are adapted from Aiken’s article with input from Post. Read more

The New News About Lithium

November 7, 2017 · Posted in Current Treatments, Peer-Reviewed Published Data · Comment 

lithium

Robert M. Post, Editor-in-Chief of the BNN, recently published an open access article in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, “The New News About Lithium: An Underutilized Treatment in the United States.” Here we summarize the main points of the publication, including: the multiple benefits of lithium, its relative safety, predictors of lithium responsiveness, and principles for treatment.

Benefits of lithium

Lithium prevents both depressions and manias in bipolar disorder, and also prevents depressions in unipolar disorder and can augment antidepressant effects acutely. In addition to these mood benefits, lithium has anti-suicide effects. Lithium also enhances the efficacy of atypical antipsychotics and other mood stabilizers when used in combination with them.

Lithium is good for the brain. It has been shown to reduce the incidence of dementia. Lithium increases the volume of the hippocampus and cortex, and can increase the production of new neurons and glia. It also protects neurons. In animals, lithium has been shown to reduce lesion size in neurological syndromes that are models for human disorders such as AIDS-related neurotoxicity, ischemic/hemorrhagic stroke, traumatic brain/spinal cord injury, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), fragile X syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, retinal degeneration, multiple sclerosis, alcohol-induced degeneration, Down’s syndrome, spinocerebellar ataxia-1, and irradiation.

Lithium’s benefits include more general ones as well. It can increase the length of telomeres, bits of DNA on the ends of chromosomes that protect them during replication. Short telomeres have been linked to various illnesses and the aging process. Lithium also decreases the incidence of several medical illnesses and enhances survival.

Side Effects Are Often Benign, Treatable

Lithium side effects are more benign than many people think. Even low levels of lithium may be therapeutically sufficient. Read more

IVIG Produces Long-Term Results in PANDAS

November 3, 2017 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

PANDAS diagnosis

PANDAS, or pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with streptococcal infection, is an autoimmune condition that produces psychiatric symptoms that appear suddenly following a case of strep throat in children. These symptoms can include obsessive-compulsive symptoms, tics, and behavioral dyscontrol and regression. Treatments are still experimental, but those that target the immune system are expected to be most successful at improving PANDAS.

In 2015, Miro Kovacevic and colleagues published a case series describing the use of intravenous immunoglobulin treatment (IVIG) in twelve children with PANDAS in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology. One or in some cases two injections of IVIG brought about long-term remission in the children with PANDAS.

IVIG consists of a wide range of antibodies from multiple individuals delivered via injection. This increase in the quality or quantity of antibodies in the recipient is thought to suppress the production of antibodies that attack brain cells, causing PANDAS. The case series was based on patients at a large clinical practice that specializes in the treatment of PANDAS. The practice used a dosage of 1.5g/kg divided into two daily doses of 750 mg/kg, meant to match twice the volume of the patients’ own immunoglobulin G.

IVIG and other anti-inflammatory approaches are also effective in PANS, a more general variation on PANDAS in which psychiatric symptoms occur following an infection other than strep.

Reduced Functional Connectivity of Amygdala Linked to Autism in Pre-School Boys

November 1, 2017 · Posted in Risk Factors · Comment 

autism

A 2016 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that preschool-aged boys with autism have weaker functional connectivity of the amygdala than typically-developing children of the same age. Researchers led by Mark D. Shen used resting-state functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure how connected the amygdala was to other regions of the brain in 72 young boys (average age 3.5).

The boys with autism had weaker connectivity between the amygdala and regions linked to social communication, language deficits, and repetitive behaviors. These areas include the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), bilateral temporal lobe, striatum, thalamus, cingulate cortex, and cerebellum.

The weaker the connectivity between these regions, the more severe the boys’ autism symptoms were. They showed impairments in overall cognitive ability and both verbal and nonverbal ability.