Prescription Patterns of Psychotropic Medications in Elderly Compared With Younger Participants Who Achieved a “Recovered” Status in the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder

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Objectives:This study compares prescription patterns between young adults and elderly with bipolar disorder who achieved a recovery status during the Systematic Treatment Enhancement Program for Bipolar Disorder (STEP-BD).Design:STEP-BD is a multicenter National Institute of Mental Health-funded project designed to evaluate the longitudinal outcome of patients with bipolar disorder. The STEP-BD study involved extensive assessment across multiple domains including demographic data, diagnosis, symptom severity, treatment, and clinical status. Patients achieved “recovered” status when they experienced eight consecutive weeks without significant symptoms.Participants:The authors analyzed data of all subjects who achieved a recovered status at least once in their participation.Measurements:The authors compared treatment regimes and doses among young participants with middle age (N = 3,364), 20–59 years old, and older participants 60 and above (N = 246).Results:Of the 3,615 STEP-BD participants who had a lifetime diagnosis of bipolar subtypes I or II, 67.6% (N = 2442) achieved a recovered status during their participation. A total of 78.5% (N = 193) of older patients recovered compared with 66.8% of the younger cohort. On average, participants who reached a recovered status took 2.05 medications with no difference between age groups. Lithium was prescribed to 37.8% of younger patients compared with only 29.5% of older participants. The mean dosages taken by younger and older patients differed significantly only for lithium, valproate, and risperidone with elderly individuals prescribed lower daily dosages. Significant reduction in lithium dosing was observed among individuals aged 50 and older and among individuals 60 and older for valproate. Although valproate was more often prescribed, 42.1% of recovered bipolar elder achieved recovery with lithium alone compared with only 21.3% of the younger cohort.Conclusion:This data shows recovery is achievable in the elderly though more than one medication is often needed regardless of age.

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