A long-term study of the atypical antipsychotic aripiprazole (Abilify) showed that the drug significantly delays the time until relapse in adults with bipolar disorder who recently experienced a manic or mixed episode followed by stabilization. Researchers used rigorous criteria for the definition of stability for bipolar I disorder as the basis of their data and subsequent findings. This study was the longest to date of the drug Abilify for the treatment of bipolar I disorder. The double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study assigned 161 adults to either Abilify or placebo. Researchers'primary goal was determining the time to relapse for a manic, mixed, or depressive episode up to and including week 26. In this study, stabilization meant maintaining a score of 10 or less on the Young Mania Rating Scale and 13 or less on the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale for 6 weeks before randomly beginning the study. Following the 26-week phase, patients had the option of continuing for an additional 74 to 100 weeks. When a predetermined number of participants relapsed, the study was terminated. Sixty-seven of the 161 adults who began the study completed the initial 26-week portion; only one adult did not move to the next phase. Of those 66, 30 discontinued the study for various reasons, 24 discontinued because of study termination, and 12 completed the extra 74 weeks. These drop-out rates are typical of long-term studies of patients with bipolar I disorder. What researchers were able to determine was that adults with up to 100 weeks of treatment with Abilify showed a delay in time to relapse (manic, depressive, or mixed), compared with placebo. Most relapses were the result of manic rather than depressive symptoms. The 100-week results were comparable with the 26-week results. Findings appeared in a supplement to the December 2006 issue of Neuropsychopharmacology.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.