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In Bipolar Treatment, Doctors Ignore Health Factors

A new study suggests that doctors don’t always take into account important health factors when writing prescriptions.

The retrospective study of outpatient and inpatient medical records found that doctors rarely took into account a person’s metabolic or vascular risk factors when prescribing newer atypical antipsychotic medications.

One of the major and common side effects of these medications is increased weight gain in people who take them. Combined with other factors, this can put a person at increased risk in the future for developing diabetes.

Medications examined in this study were olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal), and quetiapine (Seroquel).

The study examined the medical records of 340 adults who had major depressive disorder with psychotic features, bipolar I, bipolar II, bipolar not otherwise specified, or schizoaffective disorder over two time periods in 2009 and 2010.

The researchers, led by Maithri Prabhakar, M.B.B.S. from the University of Iowa, found that most doctors prescribed one of the three medications studied for specific mental health reasons alone, such as mania (a common symptom of bipolar disorder) or psychosis.

Doctors in the study were also more likely to prescribe one of the three atypical antipsychotic medications — olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal), and quetiapine (Seroquel) — if the person had previously been hospitalized for treatment.

If the person was already taking lithium or was married, doctors were less likely to prescribe an atypical antipsychotic drug.

However, the researchers found that doctors did not take into account the patient’s vascular or heart risk, nor their metabolic risk — two health factors that could play an important role in future health problems for a person prescribe an atypical antipsychotic medication.

Previous research on this class of second-generation atypical antipsychotic medications found that people taking them are at greater risk for metabolic problems, weight gain, and even obesity. These factors also put a person at greater risk for diabetes.

Bipolar disorder, also known by its older name “manic depression,” is a mental disorder that is characterized by constantly changing moods. A person with bipolar disorder experiences alternating “highs” (what clinicians call “mania“) and “lows” (also known as depression). Both the manic and depressive periods can be brief, from just a few hours to a few days, or longer, lasting up to several weeks or even months.

Bipolar disorder often causes significant problems in functioning in a person’s life, making it difficult for a person who goes untreated to work, keep a stable relationship, or go to school. Effective treatment often involves a combination of psychiatric medications and psychotherapy.

The study appeared in the August issue of the journal, Pharmacotherapy.

Source: University of Iowa

In Bipolar Treatment, Doctors Ignore Health Factors

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The Psych Central News Editor is a member of the Psych Central staff with background in journalism and mental health reporting. This is a rotating position, but is filled with a qualified reporter with appropriate psychology and mental health news experience.

APA Reference
News Editor, P. (2018). In Bipolar Treatment, Doctors Ignore Health Factors. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 31 Dec 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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