Maintenance therapies in bipolar disorders


Corresponding author:
Michael Gitlin, M.D.
Department of Psychiatry
Geffen School of Medicine
University of California, Los Angeles
300 UCLA Medical Plaza, Suite 2200
Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
Fax: 310-206-8387


Gitlin M, Frye MA. Maintenance therapies in bipolar disorders. Bipolar Disord 2012: 14 (Suppl. 2): 51–65. © 2012 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2012 John Wiley & Sons A/S.

Objective:  Bipolar disorder is an inherently recurrent disorder, requiring maintenance preventive treatments in the vast majority of patients. The authors review the data on maintenance treatments in bipolar disorder, highlighting the controlled trial literature.

Methods:  Literature review using PubMed, Medline, and a hand search of relevant literature.

Results:  Over the last decade, a number of effective maintenance treatments for bipolar disorder have been developed with an evidence base for second-generation antipsychotics and some anticonvulsants. Increasing numbers of patients, therefore, are appropriately treated with multiple medications as a maintenance regimen. For some medications, maintenance treatment has been demonstrated in randomized controlled trials for both monotherapy and in combination with other mood stabilizers. Lithium continues as our oldest well-established maintenance treatment in bipolar disorder with somewhat better efficacy in preventing mania than depression. Lamotrigine, olanzapine, and quetiapine have bimodal efficacy in preventing both mania and depression, although lamotrigine’s efficacy is more robust in preventing depression and olanzapine’s efficacy is greater in preventing mania. Aripiprazole, ziprasidone, and risperidone long-acting injection all prevent mania, but not depression. Less controlled investigations have suggested some evidence of maintenance mood stabilization with carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine, and adjunctive psychotherapy.

Conclusions:  Despite the number of agents with demonstrated efficacy as maintenance treatments in bipolar disorder, optimal treatment regimens are still a combination of evidence-based therapy in combination with individualized creative treatment algorithms.