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Antidepressants ‘not effective for bipolar depression’

By Lilian Anekwe

Antidepressants are not effective treatments for bipolar disorder, a systematic review and meta-analysis has concluded.

The role of antidepressants in this condition is controversial. Meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials have concluded they are effective and safe in these patients for bipolar depression. But subsequent prospective trials have suggested they may not less beneficial than previously thought.

US researchers analysed 15 of the latest trials – published from 2003 to 2009 – comparing courses of antidepressant treatment of less than 16 weeks duration with a placebo or other comparator in 2,373 patients with bipolar disorder.

Antidepressants were not statistically superior to placebo or other current standard treatment, the authors concluded.

Study leader Dr Michelle Sidor, a psychiatrist at the Southwestern Medical Center at the University of Texas, wrote: ‘Although antidepressants were found to be safe for acute treatment of bipolar depression, their lack of efficacy may limit their clinical utility.’

J Clin Psychiatry, online 5 October

Antidepressants are safe, but not effective for bipolar depression Antidepressants are safe, but not effective for bipolar depression