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Keywords:

  • anticonvulsants;
  • bipolar disorder;
  • depression;
  • mania;
  • obesity;
  • topiramate;
  • weight loss

Objectives: Topiramate, a structurally novel anticonvulsant, is being evaluated for other neurological conditions such as migraine, neuropathic pain, and essential tremor, and also for psychiatric conditions such as bipolar disorder, bulimia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizoaffective disorder, in addition to obesity. This article will focus on the use of topiramate for bipolar disorder. Methods: The pharmacological profile of topiramate is compared to other established and putative mood stabilizers, and a rationale for its use in bipolar disorder is presented. Data from open clinical trials of topiramate for depression, mania, and rapid-cycling bipolar disorder are summarized. Preliminary data from one pilot dose-finding, double-blind, random-assignment, placebo-controlled, 3-week parallel group study of two doses of topiramate for acute bipolar I mania is reported. Safety data regarding topiramate was reviewed. Finally, the potential place of this agent in bipolar illness is considered. Results: The pharmacological advantages for topiramate are low protein binding, minimal hepatic metabolism and mainly unchanged renal excretion, a 24-h half-life, and minimal drug interactions. Open clinical studies suggest a 50–65% response for refractory bipolar mania, and a 40–56% response for refractory bipolar depression in mainly add-on treatment. Open clinical studies of topiramate for rapid-cycling subjects and those for comorbid bulimia, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress, migraine, and obesity report effectiveness. The primary efficacy endpoint data (change from baseline Y-MRS total scores) of the placebo-controlled, random assignment parallel group phase II dose-finding study were not statistically significant. However, once the antidepressant-associated manias (28 of the sample, of 97 subjects) were excluded from the controlled study, the post-hoc analyses indicated the higher dose (512 mg/day) topiramate treatment group showed a statistically significant reduction in endpoint Y-MRS change scores as compared to placebo (p<0.03). Adverse effects of topiramate in bipolar subjects include attention, concentration and memory problems, fatigue, sedation, transient paraesthesias, nausea, and anorexia. Some subjects experience word-finding difficulty. Weight loss may be seen in several topiramate-treated subjects with bipolar disorder. Conclusions: Topiramate appears to show promise as an addition to the agents available to treat bipolar disorder. More definitive controlled data on the efficacy of topiramate in the acute and continuation phases as well as for the prophylaxis either as monotherapy or as combination treatment of bipolar disorder are ongoing, and the results are awaited.