Folate Supplements Reduce Autism Rates in Offspring of Women Taking Anti-Epileptic Drugs During Pregnancy

March 9, 2018 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

supplementsA 2017 study form Norway suggests that the offspring of women taking anti-epileptic drugs during pregnancy are less likely to develop autism if the women also take folic acid supplements.

The study by Marte Bjørk and colleagues in the journal JAMA Neurology used data from 104,936 children aged 18 to 36 months. Those whose mothers took anti-epileptic drugs during pregnancy had elevated autism rates, but only if their mothers did not use folic acid supplements. The mothers’ folate levels in weeks 17 to 19 of their pregnancies were inversely related to the degree of autistic traits in their offspring.

Women without epilepsy and women whose epilepsy went untreated during pregnancy had children with similarly low rates of autism to those whose mothers supplemented their anti-epileptic medications with folic acid during pregnancy.

A New Treatment for Disruptive Mood Dysregulation

December 26, 2017 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

disruptive boy

The 2013 update to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM-5, included a new diagnosis of disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. Children with persistent, severe temper outbursts and irritable or angry moods that are out of proportion to circumstances may be diagnosed with the disorder. However, there is not much specificity to the diagnosis and few treatment studies have been done to help clinicians and parents determine how to manage symptoms of the disorder.

A poster presented at the 2017 Psych Congress reported that a medication protocol consisting of an anticonvulsant drug to stabilize moods and temper outbursts and a dopamine agonist to reduce irritability, impulsivity, and concentration problems reduced rates of re-hospitalization. The retrospective study by researchers D. Matthews and G. Matthews included 91 children and adolescents who were prescribed the anticonvulsant oxcarbazepine and the dopamine agonist amantadine following hospitalization for severe aggression, mood instability, and impulsivity. Those who stuck to the regimen with minimal changes for one year had an 8% re-hospitalization rate compared to a 26% re-hospitalization rate among those who discontinued the regimen or substituted other drugs.

Editor’s Note: Oxcarbazepine has a long-acting preparation, Oxtellar, that can be given all at night.

Amantadine (Symmetrel) not only is a dopamine agonist used for Parkinson’s disease, but is also an antiviral and a blocker of glutamate NMDA channels. It stabilizes the closed state of the NMDA channel.

Adjunctive Topiramate Is Effective In Schizophrenia

May 17, 2013 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

topiramateMany patients with schizophrenia do not reach full remission on antipsychotic drugs alone. The anticonvulsant drug topiramate (Topamax) has shown some promise as an adjunctive treatment for schizophrenia. To clarify the results of studies of topiramate, researcher Christoph Correll and colleagues performed a meta-analysis of nine randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials of the drug. They found that when topiramate was added to antipsychotic treatment, it improved both positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, and it also led to reduced weight.

Editor’s Note: Topiramate might also be useful for patients with schizophrenia who have the common comorbidities of alcohol and cocaine abuse, since in other studies of patients with these primary disorders, topiramate was helpful.

 

Antiepileptic Drugs for Bipolar Disorder Do Not Increase Risk of Suicidal Behavior

March 18, 2013 · Posted in Current Treatments, Peer-Reviewed Published Data · Comment 

anticonvulsantsA 30-year observational study published by Andrew Leon and colleagues in the American Journal of Psychiatry has found that anticonvulsants used in epilepsy and for bipolar depression (carbamazepine, lamotrigine, and valproate) do not increase suicidal behavior in bipolar patients.

Editor’s Note: The FDA gave a warning in 2009 that these anticonvulsants were associated with suicidal ideation. This was based on studies of a mixed group of psychiatry and neurological patients in acute placebo-controlled studies, where suicidal ideation is typically a reason for exclusion from the study. Leon et al. used more powerful longitudinal methods to compare the risk of suicidal ideation in individuals taking and not taking anticonvulsants and found no such increase in suicidal behavior.

This is like the FDA warning for antidepressants and suicide, which was based on data from placebo-controlled clinical trials in acute depression (where suicidal patients are excluded). When investigators used the same longitudinal methods as Leon et al. in the anticonvulsant study, they found that antidepressants actually reduced suicidal behavior by 30%.

The bottom line is that the use of anticonvulsants for bipolar disorder should not be discouraged based on the FDA warning about suicidal ideation in mixed neurological and psychiatric patients. In bipolar patients, anticonvulsants do not increase the risk of suicidal behaviors, i.e. suicidal acts or completed suicides.

A Positive Placebo-Controlled Trial of Valproate (Depakote) in Autism

April 29, 2010 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

A recent issue of the Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology reported that a placebo-controlled trial of valproate (Depakote) showed the drug is effective in treating irritability in those with autism. Approximately 50% of the participants were less irritable on valproate compared with only about 15% on placebo.  Valproate was also generally well-tolerated.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is a particularly important finding, both for clinical treatment and for its potential theoretical implications.  Valproate, in addition to its properties as a mood-stabilizing anticonvulsant that increases brain GABA levels and exerts a variety of other neurobiological effects, is also a histone deacetylase inhibitor.

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Anticonvulsant Zonisamide (Zonegran) May Treat Alcohol Abuse

April 29, 2010 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

Albert Arias and collaborators from the University of Connecticut Health Center presented a study of zonisamide in which the drug provided significant benefits over placebo in patients with primary alcoholism (i.e., not with comorbid bipolar illness).  Treatments began at 100 mg/day and increased to a maximum of 500 mg/day.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  If replicated, this study would place zonisamide in a category with topiramate (Topamax), which has also been shown to decrease alcohol intake and craving. Both drugs also share the ability to cause minor weight loss as a potentially positive side effect, and both drugs have also proven effective in double-blind studies in the treatment of bulimia.

However, four double-blind, placebo-controlled studies found that topiramate did not have acute antimanic efficacy. Zonisamide has not been studied in a systematic fashion, but open studies suggest its potential utility in mania and, to a lesser degree, in depression.


Since zonisamide may have positive effects on mood in patients with bipolar disorder, and there is now placebo-controlled documentation of its efficacy in primary alcohol abuse disorders, its ultimate potential utility in patients with bipolar disorder and comorbid alcoholism deserves consideration.

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