• bipolar disorder;
  • efficacy;
  • patient education;
  • psychiatrists;
  • tolerability;
  • unmet needs

Objective:  To identify and prioritize barriers, challenges, and unmet needs in the management of patients with bipolar disorder, as perceived by their psychiatrists.

Methods:  A total of 500 US- or UK-based psychiatrists were surveyed by telephone using a validated, semi-structured questionnaire. Both preidentified and participant-elicited barriers, challenges and unmet needs were ranked on a 0–6 point scale in four phases of management: I, entry into care; II, the manic/hypomanic phase; III, the depressive phase; and IV, the long-term/maintenance phase.

Results:  Education and support for patients and families as well as earlier referral to specialist care were the highest ranked needs at entry into care. During treatment of acute episodes and long-term management the highest ranked needs were for treatments with improved effectiveness and patient adherence, in addition to improved long-term safety in the maintenance phase. Patients with comorbid alcohol and/or substance use disorders, followed by patients with a rapid-cycling disease course, were rated as having the highest level of unmet need. Similarities were predominantly seen between the overall pattern of responses from UK- and US-based psychiatrists.

Conclusions:  The highest priority items across the spectrum of treatment related to the need for clinically effective therapeutic agents with broad efficacy and favorable tolerability. At the time of initial diagnosis, patient education, family support, and earlier referral to specialist care were the highest priority needs.