'Wake-Up Pill' Under Study to Treat Patients with Bipolar Disorder

August 1, 2007

A preliminary study of 85 patients with bipolar disorder shows that a drug used to treat patients with sleep disorders might also control the depressive symptoms associated with bipolar disorder. At least 44 percent of the participants in the study reported improved symptoms, a noteworthy improvement for a disorder in which new treatments are needed, according to the study’s author, Mark Frye, M.D., director of the Mayo Clinic Mood Disorders Clinic and Research Program.

The study appears in the August issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

“There are very few treatments for the depressive phase of bipolar disorder and as a result there is an urgent need to evaluate potential new therapeutics,” says Dr. Frye. “Mood stabilizers in general are better at treating mania than depression, but the depressive phase of the illness is far more common. We really need continued research in this area.”

This study was completed in 2005 when Dr. Frye was with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Bipolar disorder is characterized by an alternating pattern of emotional highs (mania) and lows (depression). It can range from a mild to severe condition, and there may be periods of normal behavior. (For more information about bipolar disorder, visit www.mayoclinic.com) According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 5.7 million adults in the United States are living with bipolar disorder.

Modafinil, the drug featured in this study, is often referred to in the news media as the “wake-up pill” because it is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat patients who suffer from excessive sleepiness associated with narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea and shift
work sleep disorder. During the depressive phase of bipolar disorder the symptoms include
excessive sleepiness and fatigue, so researchers wondered if modafinil could address these symptoms in patients with bipolar disorder.

“This is a placebo-controlled study with real world community impact,” Dr. Frye says. Half of the patients in the study were given modafinil, 100-200 milligrams daily, and the other half were given a placebo over a six-week period. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted at five sites (the University of California, Los Angeles; University of Texas Southwestern; University of Cincinnati; and University of Munich and the University of Freiburg in Germany).

While the trial was small, the 44 percent response rate was greater than that of the placebo group. Forty-four percent said they felt better, while 39 percent said their symptoms were in remission after six weeks. This compares to 23 percent and 18 percent in the control group. Modafinil was not associated with any greater risk of the manic and depressive mood swings associated with bipolar disorder.

How exactly modafinil works to promote wakefulness or improve mood in bipolar disorder is not completely understood. It appears to have an entirely different mechanism of action as compared to other psychostimulants, Dr. Frye says.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Explore further: Simple EKG can determine whether patient has depression or bipolar disorder

Related Stories

Simple EKG can determine whether patient has depression or bipolar disorder

November 20, 2017
A groundbreaking Loyola Medicine study suggests that a simple 15-minute electrocardiogram could help a physician determine whether a patient has major depression or bipolar disorder.

Gene breakthrough on lithium treatment for bipolar disorder

November 8, 2017
Genes linked to schizophrenia in psychiatric patients suffering from bipolar disorder are the reason why such patients don't respond to the "gold standard" treatment for bipolar - the drug lithium - according to international ...

Women with PCOS should be screened for mental health disorders

November 6, 2017
Women with PCOS are more likely to suffer from mental health disorders and should be routinely screened for these during medical assessments, according to a study presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference ...

US regulators approve first digital pill to track patients

November 14, 2017
U.S. regulators have approved the first drug with a sensor that alerts doctors when the medication has been taken, offering a new way of monitoring patients but also raising privacy concerns.

Link between biological-clock disturbance and brain dysfunction found

October 30, 2017
Researchers at Okayama University report in the Journal of Neuroscience that a certain protein known to play a major role in circadian rhythmicity—humans' intrinsic 24-hour biological cycle—is also key to proper brain ...

Sensor-equipped pill raises technological, ethical questions

November 17, 2017
The first drug with a sensor embedded in a pill that alerts doctors when patients have taken their medications was approved by the Food and Drug Administration, raiding issues involving privacy, cost, and whether patients ...

Recommended for you

Glucocorticoids offer long-term benefits for patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy

November 22, 2017
Glucocorticoids, a class of steroid hormone medications often prescribed to patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), offer long-term benefits for this disease, including longer preservation of muscle strength and ...

Baby-boomers and millennials more afflicted by the opioid epidemic

November 21, 2017
Baby-boomers, those born between 1947 and 1964, experienced an excess risk of prescription opioid overdose death and heroin overdose death, according to latest research at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. ...

New painkillers reduce overdose risk

November 16, 2017
Scientists on the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have developed new opioid pain relievers that reduce pain on par with morphine but do not slow or stop breathing—the cause of opiate overdose.

Separating side effects could hold key for safer opioids

November 16, 2017
Opioid pain relievers can be extremely effective in relieving pain, but can carry a high risk of addiction and ultimately overdose when breathing is suppressed and stops. Scientists have discovered a way to separate these ...

Introduction is different, but top medications for opioid addiction equally effective

November 14, 2017
With opioid addiction officially declared a public health emergency in the U.S., medical intervention to treat the illness is increasingly important in responding to the epidemic. Now, a new study concludes that two of the ...

Drugstore pain pills as effective as opioids in ER patients

November 7, 2017
Emergency rooms are where many patients are first introduced to powerful opioid painkillers, but what if doctors offered over-the-counter pills instead? A new study tested that approach on patients with broken bones and sprains ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.