NYMC Faculty Publications


Complex Psychotropic Polypharmacy in Bipolar Disorder Across Varying Mood Polarities: a Prospective Cohort Study of 2712 Inpatients

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Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences


BACKGROUND: It is common for patients with bipolar disorder (BP) to receive multiple psychotropics, but few studies have assessed demographic and clinical features associated with risk for receiving complex psychotropic polypharmacy.

METHODS: This longitudinal cohort study examined 2712 inpatients with a DSM-IV clinical diagnosis of BP to assess associations between complex polypharmacy (defined as ≥4 psychotropics) and demographic and clinical features; associations with risk of rehospitalization were also examined. Logistic regressions were performed with the sample as a whole and with each of four DSM-IV BP subtypes individually.

RESULTS: Complex polypharmacy was present in 21.0%. BP-I depressed patients were more likely to receive complex regimens than BP-I manic, BP-I mixed or BP-II patients. In the sample as a whole, variables significantly associated with complex polypharmacy included female, white, psychotic features and a co-diagnosis of borderline personality, post-traumatic stress or another anxiety disorder. The only examined medication not significantly associated with complex polypharmacy was lithium, although only in BP-I depressed and BP-I mixed. Complex polypharmacy was associated with rehospitalization in BP-I mania within 15 and 30days post index hospitalization.

LIMITATIONS: All data were from one clinical facility; results may not generalize to other settings and patient populations.

CONCLUSIONS: BP-I depression may pose a greater treatment challenge than the other BP subtypes. Lithium may confer an overall advantage compared to other medications in BP-I depressed and BP-I mixed. Further research is needed to guide pharmacotherapy decisions in BP patients.

Publisher's Statement

Originally published in Journal of Affective Disorders, 221, 6-10. The original material can be found here.