Introduction: Combination treatment, rather than monotherapy, is prevalent in the treatment of subjects with bipolar disorder, probably due to the complex and phasic nature of the illness. In general, prescription patterns may be influenced by the demographic characteristics of patients as well. We evaluated prescription patterns and the influence of demographic variables on these patterns in a voluntary registry of subjects with bipolar disorder.
Methods: A subset of data from a larger voluntary registry was extracted for demographic variables and psychotropic medication use that had been reported in the month prior to registration by ambulatory, non-hospitalized subjects with bipolar I disorder in 1995/96 (n=457).
Results: Among the thymoleptic agents, lithium was prescribed in over 50% of subjects, valproate in approximately 40%, and carbamazepine in 11% of subjects. Eighteen percent of subjects had no prescription for thymoleptic agents. Nearly one-third of all subjects were receiving antipsychotic agents, of whom two-thirds were receiving the traditional neuroleptic agents. More than half of all subjects were receiving concomitant antidepressants, of whom nearly 50% received the SSRI antidepressants and nearly 25% received buproprion. Approximately 40% of subjects received benzodiazepines. Only 18% of subjects received monotherapy, and nearly 50% received three or more psychotropic agents. In general, no associations were noted between demographic parameters including age, gender, marital or educational status, and psychotropic prescriptions.
Conclusion: Consistent with the anecdotal reports, these data confirm that combination treatment is far more common than monotherapy. Demography appears to have a minimal impact on cross-sectional prescription patterns in subjects with bipolar disorder. Given that combination treatments are the rule rather than the exception, we should strive to achieve rational, yet pragmatic, treatment guidelines and algorithms to minimize the risks while maximizing the benefits of these combination treatments for patients with bipolar disorder.