Two different subtypes of early onset unspecified bipolar disorder (USBD)

The first subtype is classical BP NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) having all the characteristics of full-blown bipolar disorder except for only having brief durations of mania and responding to conventional treatment. The second is what is now called Temperature and Sleep Dysregulation Disorder (TSDD) and was formerly described by D. Papolos as the Fear of Harm (FOH) syndrome, and requires a different treatment approach.

Clinicians should be alert to unique symptoms in children who might have TSDD as such a diagnosis would lead to a unconventional treatment paradigm. We emphasize the importance of specifically asking parents about evidence of over heating (red face and red ears) and high tolerance for cold (going outside markedly under-dressed) and the presence of fear of sleep and horrific nightmares, as these may lead one to consider the diagnosis of TSDD.

If these two novel aspects (temperature and sleep dysregulation) occur in the presentation of a highly fearful and behaviorally dysregulated child with bipolar-like symptoms, these may lead to the consideration of an unconventional treatment paradigm. It utilizes 1) high dose lithium; 2) clonidine and other practical approaches to achieve cooling and relieve over heating; and 3) ascending doses of intranasal ketamine (as described by Papolos et al 2013; 2018). This may be of considerable clinical importance as a large group of children with this unique presentation respond very poorly to conventional treatments for bipolar disorder and remain highly impaired and dysfunction throughout their childhood and adolescence.

If these children instead are treated with: lithium (to achieve blood levels of 1.0 meq/L or higher); clonidine (0.1- 0.3mg IR and 0.1mg ER at noon and HS) and other practical ways to achieve cooling; followed by ascending intranasal doses of ketamine (starting at 20mg and increasing toward 80-260mg/day, repeated every 2-3 days), marked improvement can be achieved. This occurs in conjunction with ketamine’s positive effects on fear and aggressive behaviors in association with its ability to reduce core body temperature.

We highlight this potential alternative treatment approach as long term positive effects have been achieved with it in open case series (Papolos et al 2013; 2018 ). The efficacy of this treatment approach has not been validated in controlled clinical trials, but we believe wider recognition of the two subtypes of USBD– BPNOS and TSDD,– will lead to more systematic research on treatment. Actively looking for the unique features of TSDD and pursuing its unconventional treatment may lead to long term positive effects in a child previously viewed as having an intractable psychiatric illness.

Lithium is a Lifesaver in Bipolar Disorder

Batya Swift Yasgur MA, LSW reported in Medscape Medical News on November 28, 2022 that “Mood stabilizers protect against suicide and all-cause mortality in patients with bipolar disorder (BD), including natural mortality, with lithium emerging as the most protective agent, new research suggests.

Investigators led by Pao-Huan Chen, MD, of the Department of Psychiatry, Taipei Medical University Hospital, Taiwan, evaluated the association between the use of mood stabilizers and the risks for all-cause mortality, suicide, and natural mortality in over 25,000 patients with BD and found that those with BD had higher mortality.

However, they also found that patients with BD had a significantly decreased adjusted 5-year risk of dying from any cause, suicide, and natural causes. Lithium was associated with the largest risk reduction compared with the other mood stabilizers.

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.

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.

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.

Fish Oil Monotherapy on Depression in Adolescents at High Risk for Bipolar I Disorder: Ambiguity Persists

omega-3 fatty acids
Fish oil supplements

Researcher Robert K. McNamara and colleagues reported in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology in a 2020 article that 12 weeks of treatment with omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil did not reduce depression symptoms in adolescents at risk for bipolar disorder when compared to placebo. The primary outcome measured was the results of the Childhood Depression Rating Scale-Revised (CDRS-R).

Fish oil did perform better than placebo on two parts of the rating scale: symptom severity and symptom improvement, especially in weeks 11 and 12 of the study. Omega-3 fatty acids increased creatine and choline in the anterior cingulate, and also increased polyunsaturated fatty acids in red blood cells. The treatment was safe and well-tolerated.

A total of 42 patients between the ages of 9 and 21 who had been diagnosed with depression and had at least one parent with bipolar I disorder received either placebo or 3 fish oil capsules per day. Each capsule contained 450?mg EPA, 40?mg docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and 260?mg DHA for a total daily dose of 2130?mg EPA + DHA.

Editor’s Note: Ambiguity persists about whether omega-3 fatty acids can improve unipolar or bipolar depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or prevent the progression of schizophrenia symptoms to the full syndrome. Given the lack of side effects, and the documented effects on red blood cells and brain choline, clinical use of these compounds could be considered in some circumstances.

Improvement in Bipolar Depression on Open-Label Lurasidone

February 10, 2020 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

healthy teen

Researcher Katherine Burdick and colleagues of Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital and Harvard University reported in a poster at the 2019 meeting of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) that youth between the ages of 10 and 17 with bipolar depression who continued taking lurasidone on a non-blind basis following a double-blind placebo-controlled six-week trial of the drug, or those who began taking lurasidone (for those who had been in the placebo group during the trial) saw improvement over a period of one to two years. All of the patients began the extension portion of the study at a dose of 20 mg/day.

Lurasidone appeared to be effective and well-tolerated. In addition, Burdick and colleagues reported a lack of cognitive difficulties in the youth taking lurasidone. Interestingly, a measure of visual learning substantially and progressively improved over the course of the study.

Treating Bipolar Depression in an Adolescent

July 9, 2019 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

At the 2019 meeting of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders, researcher Ben Goldstein discussed a case of a 15-year-old with bipolar depression and his recommended treatments for the adolescent. Goldstein endorsed the use of an atypical antipsychotic such as lurasidone, and perhaps also quetiapine. Goldstein noted 2015 findings from researcher Robert Findling that lamotrigine was significantly more effective than placebo in adolescents 13–18 years old, but was not effective in those aged 10–12.

(In adults, researcher John Geddes and colleagues found that in patients with an inadequate antidepressant response to quetiapine, the addition of lamotrigine was more effective than adding a placebo, both acutely and in long-term follow-up. The only caveat was that lamotrigine was less effective in those who were also being treated with folate.)

Editor’s Note: Some other treatments could augment the effects of the regimen proposed by Goldstein, including lithium and the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine, which, it should be noted, takes more than eight weeks to become effective. Vitamin D3 could also be considered, as it is often low in children with psychiatric disorders. One treatment that went unmentioned at the meeting was repeated transcranial magnetic stimulation, or rTMS, which is effective and well-tolerated in adolescents with depression.

For patients with more rapidly cycling bipolar disorder and only partial response to medications, the combination of the ‘three Ls’ (lurasidone, lamotrigine, and lithium) could have considerable appeal, given that each drug is from a different class of medications, has a different mechanism of action, targets a different mood phase, and is relatively well-tolerated both alone and in combination with other drugs.

Newly Identified Effects of N-Acetylcysteine

July 5, 2019 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

NACIn a talk at the 2019 meeting of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders, researcher Michael Berk, who was responsible for some of the initial findings on the effects of the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC), summarized some of the newer findings about the treatment.

NAC has been found to be effective in bipolar depression and in the treatment of both positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia. It also helps in the avoidance of cocaine, alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. It can reduce habitual behaviors such as gambling, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and trichotillomania (compulsive hair-pulling) and irritability and motor stereotypy (repeated movements) in autism.

A 2016 study by researcher Sudie E. Back and colleagues in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that NAC improved symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans who also had depression and substance use disorders at a dosage of 2.4 grams/day.

According to Berk, NAC also reduces the incidence of lithium-related renal failure and reduces mitochrondrial toxicity. One study reported that it improved working memory in patients with schizophrenia.

In his talk, Berk also noted that statins offer an interesting new avenue for treatment. Several studies have suggested statins can improve mood or reduce the likelihood of a depressive recurrence. Angiotension-active drugs (inhibitors) have also been reported to decrease the incidence of depression and to improve cognition.

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