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Keywords:

  • antiepileptics;
  • atypical antipsychotics;
  • bipolar disorder;
  • efficacy;
  • safety;
  • side effects;
  • tolerability

Objectives:  Over the past few years numerous new agents have been examined for their efficacy in bipolar disorder (BPD). New antiepileptic agents and atypical antipsychotics currently form the bulk of these emerging agents. As the armamentarium for treating BPD increases, it allows for the possibility of choosing drugs on the basis of their tolerability as well as their efficacy, rather than on efficacy alone.

Methods:  Efficacy data for newer antiepileptic drugs (lamotrigine, topiramate, gabapentin, oxcarbazepine) and atypical antipsychotics (olanzapine, clozapine, risperidone, quetiapine, ziprasidone, aripiprazole) are briefly reviewed. The article focuses on relative safety and tolerability of these agents.

Results:  In general, most of these newer agents have better side effect and tolerability profiles than older agents commonly used to treat BPD (lithium, valproate, carbamazepine); however, these must be weighed against efficacy demonstrated to date in randomized, controlled trials. Cognitive impairment is a concern with topiramate, weight gain and risk of diabetes with some of the atypical antipsychotic agents, and rash with lamotrigine.

Conclusions:  Side effects of newer emerging agents for the treatment of BPD can be effectively managed and the risks reduced by instituting practical strategies early in management.