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Alternatives to lithium and divalproex in the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder


Corresponding author: Alan J Gelenberg, Professor and Head, Department of Psychiatry, University of Arizona, 1501 North Campbell Avenue, Box 245002, Tucson, AZ, 85724-5002 USA. Fax: +(520) 626-4070; e-mail:


Objectives: The role of lithium carbonate in the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder is well established. Unfortunately, many patients fail to respond adequately to this agent or are unable to tolerate its adverse effects. Divalproex has become a commonly used alternative to lithium, but it also is ineffective or poorly tolerated in many patients. This article attempts to review the available data on maintenance therapy in bipolar disorder with a variety of anticonvulsants and antipsychotics (both conventional and novel), with reference to relevant studies in acute mania and bipolar depression as well.

Methods: Evidence on maintenance therapy and relevant acute-phase data were collected using MEDLINE database searches.

Results: Data on maintenance therapy with agents other than lithium and divalproex are sparse, and often derived from open, uncontrolled studies. Implications and flaws of available data are discussed.

Conclusions: Other than lithium, there are few robust double-blind data to support the use of a variety of agents in the maintenance phase. However, uncontrolled data suggest that a number of agents merit further study.

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