A Pharmacologic Algorithm for Youth Who Are at High Risk for Bipolar Disorder JOURNAL OF CHILD AND ADOLESCENT PSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY Schneck, C. D., Chang, K. D., Singh, M. K., DelBello, M. P., Miklowitz, D. J. 2017; 27 (9): 796–805


Depression and brief periods of manic symptoms are linked to a significant risk of progression to bipolar disorder (BD) in children who have a first-degree relative with BD I or II. However, little evidence exists to guide the pharmacologic management of children with these high-risk phenotypes. We propose a pharmacological treatment algorithm for high-risk youth and present results on its use in a study of children with a first-degree relative with BD.Subjects were 40 youth (mean 12.7 years, range 9-17 years) who had (1) a first-degree relative with lifetime history of BD I or II, (2) DSM-IV-TR diagnoses of BD not otherwise specified, major depressive disorder or cyclothymic disorder, and (3) active symptoms of depression, mania, or hypomania. Participants and their families were enrolled in a randomized trial examining the effects of two psychosocial interventions on the 1-year course of mood disorder. At study intake, participants received a psychiatric evaluation and were offered medications or had existing medications optimized to decrease symptom severity. During the 1-year study, psychiatrists treated participants using a medication algorithm to treat depressive or manic symptoms as well as comorbid anxiety and/or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.At study entry, 25 of 40 (62.5%) of the participants were taking at least one psychiatric medication. At 1 year, nearly an identical proportion were taking medications (22 of 35, 63%). Independent ratings indicated that in 84.7% of the study visits, physicians maintained adherence to the algorithm. No patients experienced antidepressant- or stimulant-induced mania during the study.An algorithmic approach to pharmacologic interventions may aid in the management of youth (i.e., age <18) at high risk for BD. Future studies should compare outcomes in high-risk patients receiving algorithm-prescribed treatment versus those receiving treatment as usual.Early Family-Focused Treatment for Youth at Risk for Bipolar Disorder; www.clinicaltrials.gov/ ; NCT00943085.

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