Study reveals why people with bipolar disorder do not always respond to certain drugs

Researchers claim to have discovered the reason why people living with bipolar disorder often do not respond to certain treatments.

Specifically, the research claims to have mapped out the reason why patients with bipolar disorder will exhibit little or no response when treated with lithium – a ‘mood stabilising’ drug which has been one of the most widely-used types of medication across the globe for treating depression and bipolar since the 1950s.

However, it has long been thought that around a third (30 per cent) of patients treated with lithium will only have a ‘partial response’ to the drug, while a further quarter will have no response whatsoever.

Global research carried out by the University of Adelaide in Australia recently set out to determine why this is the case.

As many as 2,500 patients treated with lithium for bipolar disorder were assessed as part of the study.

“We found that patients clinically diagnosed with bipolar disorder who showed a poor response to lithium treatment all shared something in common,” study leader Professor Bernhard Baune, said.

What the patients had in common was that all of them appeared to have “a high number of genes previously identified for schizophrenia,” he said.

“This doesn’t mean that the patient also had schizophrenia – but if a bipolar patient has a high ‘gene load’ of schizophrenia risk genes, our research shows they are less likely to respond to mood stabilisers such as lithium.”

“These findings represent a significant step forward for the field of translational psychiatry,” he said.

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