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Depression Research and Treatment
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 684725, 10 pages
Review Article

Antidepressant Treatment for Acute Bipolar Depression: An Update

1Geha Mental Health Center, Research Unit, P.O. Box 102, Petach Tikva 49100, Israel
2Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, P.O. Box 39040, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel

Received 23 October 2011; Accepted 29 November 2011

Academic Editor: Po-See Chen

Copyright © 2012 Ben H. Amit and Abraham Weizman. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


While studies in the past have focused more on treatment of the manic phase of bipolar disorder (BD), recent findings demonstrate the depressive phase to be at least as debilitating. However, in contrast to unipolar depression, depression in bipolar patients exhibits a varying response to antidepressants, raising questions regarding their efficacy and tolerability. Methods. We conducted a MEDLINE and Cochrane Collaboration Library search for papers published between 2005 and 2011 on the subject of antidepressant treatment of bipolar depression. Sixty-eight articles were included in the present review. Results. While a few studies did advocate the use of antidepressants, most well-controlled studies failed to show a robust effect of antidepressants in bipolar depression, regardless of antidepressant class or bipolar subtype. There was no significant increase in the rate of manic/hypomanic switch, especially with concurrent use of mood stabilizers. Prescribing guidelines published in recent years rely more on atypical antipsychotics, especially quetiapine, as a first-line therapy. Conclusions. Antidepressants probably have no substantial role in acute bipolar depression. However, in light of conflicting results between studies, more well-designed trials are warranted.