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Keywords:

  • bipolar disorder;
  • functional outcomes;
  • mania;
  • olanzapine;
  • recovery;
  • remission

Background:  Typical experimental categorizations of treatment responses in bipolar disorder (BPD) patients may have limited relationship to clinical recovery or functional status, and there is inadequate research on such clinically important outcomes.

Methods:  We analyzed data from a study of open continuation of olanzapine treatment following a 3-week placebo-controlled trial involving initially hospitalized adult subjects with DSM-IV BP-I mania to estimate rates and times to symptomatic remission (low scores on standardized symptomatic assessments) and clinical recovery (remission sustained ≥8 weeks), associated clinical factors, and functional outcomes.

Results:  During treatment with olanzapine for 27.9 ± 20.1 weeks, symptomatic remission was attained by 70% of subjects, half by 8 weeks (95% CI 6–10) weeks, and later lost by 82% of remitted subjects; remitted (versus non-remitted) subjects had slightly lower baseline clinical global impression scores and greater trial-completion. Sustained clinical recovery was attained by only 40 of 113 (35%) of subjects, half by 36 (95% CI 20–40) weeks, and later lost by 45%. Subjects with above-median (>12) initial Hamilton-Depression rating scale depression scores were half as likely to recover (p = 0.016) and did so much later (36 versus 12 weeks) than those with lower scores. At final assessment, self-rated well being (SF-36 psychosocial functioning scores) improved substantially more among recovered versus non-recovered subjects (mean changes: 87% versus 23%), and two-thirds of recovered subjects remained unemployed-for-pay while half received disability-compensation.

Conclusions:  Clinically meaningful symptomatic remission and recovery in relatively severely ill adult bipolar I manic patients were achieved slowly and sustained by only some patients within an average of 7 months of continuous treatment. These clinically relevant outcomes were worse with relatively high initial dysphoria ratings. Well-being was rated higher by recovered subjects, but their ability to work and live independently were markedly impaired. These findings underscore the emerging view that BPD can often be severe, slow to remit, and disabling, particularly in association with prominent depression-dysphoria symptoms. Improved treatments for BPD are needed, guided by longitudinal assessments of clinically meaningful measures of symptomatic recovery and functional outcome.