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Keywords:

  • bipolar disorder;
  • hypomania;
  • survey;
  • unipolar depression

Rouillon F, Gasquet I, Garay RP, Lancrenon S. Impact of an educational program on the management of bipolar disorder in primary care. Bipolar Disord 2011: 13: 318–322. © 2011 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2011 John Wiley & Sons A/S.

Objective:  Government agencies and industry have recently undertaken educational programs for the management of bipolar disorder in primary care, but their medical impact is not well known. Therefore, we conducted a survey among general practitioners to evaluate the impact of the Bipolact Educational Program on the diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder.

Methods:  A total of 45 general practitioners attending the Bipolact Educational Program (trained group) were compared with a control group of 50 untrained general practitioners on their ability to: (i) diagnose bipolar I and II disorders and (ii) treat bipolar disorder patients appropriately.

Results:  Trained physicians, but not untrained physicians, showed a significant improvement (p < 0.0001, chi-square test) in the ability to identify patients as having bipolar I (from 10.4% to 28.8%) and bipolar II disorder (from 20.1% to 45.8%). This trend resulted in a strong decrease in nonidentified bipolar disorder patients (from 64.6% to 19.5%). Trained physicians, but not the untrained group, greatly increased the number of prescriptions for mood stabilizers for bipolar disorder patients, from 25.6% to 43.2% (p = 0.0013, chi-square test). Finally, trained physicians reduced the number of antidepressant prescriptions for bipolar disorder patients (the control group also reduced the number of antidepressant prescriptions, suggesting some bias in the survey).

Conclusion:  A well-designed education package on diagnosis and management of bipolar disorder greatly increased the likelihood of physicians correctly assigning a subtype, namely bipolar I or bipolar II disorder, to patients already perceived as having some form of bipolar illness, and to prescribing mood stabilizers instead of antidepressants to these patients.