People with bipolar disorder are less likely to suffer a relapse if they are taking both lithium and sodium valproate rather than the drug valproate alone, an Oxford University study has shown.
Sodium valproate (available as Depakote) has been increasingly prescribed over lithium (Priadel) as a long-term therapy for bipolar disorder, particularly in North America. But the findings of the randomised trial, published in the medical journal The Lancet, suggest that those who have been prescribed valproate would fare better if lithium was added to their therapy, or if they changed to lithium alone.
'Our study indicates that a combination therapy of lithium plus valproate may be preferable for people with bipolar disorder over valproate alone, as there were significantly fewer relapses among those on both drugs over the two year period of the trial,' says Professor John Geddes of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford, who led the research.
About 1 in 100 people are diagnosed as having bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression), a mood disorder characterised by swings in a person's mood, including depression and mania. During a severe depressive episode, people may have feelings of hopelessness and despair, and have difficulty in carrying on with daily activities and work. In the manic phase, people may be overactive, lose judgement, become sexually uninhibited, and have grandiose ideas or delusions.
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