New Research Under Way to Study Treatment for Older Adults With Bipolar Disorder

Effects of Medications Investigated

May 7, 2009


Continuing their groundbreaking research into the treatment of mood disorders in older adults, psychiatrists at the Weill Cornell Institute of Geriatric Psychiatry at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division in White Plains will begin new studies on the effects of quetiapine (Seroquel: Astra Zeneca) and lamotrigine (Lamictal: GlaxoSmithKline). Although both drugs have been approved for aspects of the treatment of patients with bipolar disorder, to date there has been limited research into their effects on older adults with bipolar depression.

The studies are being led by Dr. Robert C. Young, professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, and his colleagues at the Institute of Geriatric Psychiatry. With more than 30 years of clinical and research experience, Dr. Young's focus has been to develop information that can improve the treatment of older adults suffering severe mood disorders.

Dr. Young, an attending psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Westchester, said: "To date, most bipolar disorder treatment studies have been conducted in younger patients. In some older bipolar patients a good symptom response is difficult to achieve, and they often have recurring symptoms, disability, multiple medical disorders and increased mortality rates. We hope that findings from these studies will help physicians better manage the care of their geriatric bipolar patients."

Eligible participants must be 60 years of age or older with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and currently suffering from symptoms of depression. They will be required to meet with a psychiatrist one day per week for a few hours and receive medication management from the treatment team. For a free, confidential bipolar screening, candidates are advised to call (914) 997-4331 or (800) NYP-1902.

Dr. Young and his colleagues are also continuing to lead another study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and now in its fourth year, comparing the efficacy of two commonly used mood stabilizers, lithium and valproate, for the treatment of bipolar disorder in older adults. To date, more than 140 individuals in six study sites across the United States including NewYork-Presbyterian/Westchester have participated.

Dr. Young added: "We've heard from some participants in the NIMH study that they have gotten satisfaction in knowing that the findings from this important research may be of benefit to other older individuals — now and in the years ahead — who are similarly afflicted with bipolar disorder."

Bipolar disorder involves periods of elevated mood — mania or hypomania — and periods of depression, or "mixed" episodes in which patients have both kinds of symptoms. Examples of manic symptoms are high levels of energy, going without sleep for extended periods, elated mood or irritability, and impulsive or reckless behavior. Patients may not recognize that they are having symptoms.

The studies are funded by Astra Zeneca and GlaxoSmithKline. Dr. Young has received an honorarium for a talk sponsored by Astra Zeneca.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division, opened in 1894, is one of the world's most advanced centers for psychiatric care. The Westchester Division serves children, adolescents, adults and the elderly with comprehensive outpatient, day treatment, partial hospitalization and inpatient services. In addition to clinical treatment, the Westchester Division is also a center for interdisciplinary medical research and education through its academic affiliate, Weill Cornell Medical College. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital also comprises NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/The Allen Pavilion. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report.

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Eliza Whoriskey O'Neill 914-682-6991