To assess the efficacy of lamotrigine combined with either divalproex or lithium for the treatment of bipolar disorder.
Lithium and divalproex seem to be predominantly effective for manic and mixed symptoms of bipolar disorder, whereas lamotrigine may be more effective for bipolar depression than for mania. Combination therapy may provide more efficacious treatment for many patients with bipolar disorder.
Data from charts of adult outpatients with bipolar disorder treated with lamotrigine plus divalproex or lithium during a 3-year period were retrospectively analyzed. The Clinical Global Impressions for Bipolar Disorder scale was used to assess severity of illness at baseline (adjunct-therapy initiation) and improvement after 3 months of treatment. The safety and tolerability of the medication combinations were assessed.
After 3 months of treatment, 26 of 39 patients (67%) receiving lamotrigine plus divalproex had a depression rating of 1 (very much improved) or 2 (much improved) compared with seven of 16 (44%) taking lamotrigine plus lithium. The mania rating was 1 or 2 for 13 of 39 (39%) patients treated with lamotrigine plus divalproex and 7 of 16 (44%) patients receiving lamotrigine plus lithium. For overall illness severity, 26 of 39 (67%) patients given lamotrigine plus divalproex had scores of 1 or 2 compared with 10 of 16 (62%) patients taking lamotrigine plus lithium. Five of 39 patients (13%) taking lamotrigine plus divalproex and 5 of 16 (31%) receiving lamotrigine plus lithium discontinued at least one part of the combination in <3 months due to adverse events.
Combination therapy with lamotrigine plus divalproex or lithium may be a valuable option for managing symptoms of bipolar disorder. The combinations were generally well tolerated and apparently effective in improving depression as well as mania.The percentage of patients showing improvement in depression was somewhat larger. Tolerability was somewhat better for lamotrigine plus divalproex in combination than for lamotrigine plus lithium. Differences in tolerability are consistent with studies indicating poorer tolerability of lithium compared with divalproex.
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