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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

University of Pittsburgh Participating in Nationwide, Comparative Effectiveness Study of Common Bipolar Medications

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 21 – The Mood Disorders Treatment Research Program at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry is participating in Bipolar CHOICE (Clinical Health Outcomes Initiative in Comparative Effectiveness), a 10-site nationwide trial evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of quetiapine, a widely prescribed second-generation antipsychotic mood stabilizing medication, compared to lithium, the gold standard mood stabilizer, for the treatment of bipolar disorder.

The study, funded by a $10 million grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research Quality (AHRQ), is being conducted locally by Edward S. Friedman, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Pitt’s School of Medicine. Dr. Friedman and his research team are seeking adults with bipolar disorder, ages 18 to 68, who are currently experiencing at least mild symptoms of depression, hypomania or mania to participate in Bipolar CHOICE. Participants will receive either lithium or quetiapine as a mood stabilizer for six months.

“Bipolar CHOICE is the first study to examine the real-world pros and cons of the newer, second-generation mood stabilizers as compared to the classic mood stabilizer, lithium, for the treatment of bipolar disorder,” adds Dr. Friedman.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong and highly recurrent mood disorder characterized by episodes of mania or hypomania that alternate with episodes of major depression. It is among the top 10 causes of disability worldwide, with associated costs of $70 billion per year for treatment and prevention.

Over the past 10 years, the pharmacologic treatments for bipolar disorder have shifted away from lithium in favor of newly developed antipsychotics, such as quetiapine. Both drugs have well-documented side effects. Quetiapine may cause drowsiness and weight gain and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Lithium is associated with the risk of long-term thyroid and kidney problems.

“We hope this study will help us determine which medications work best for patients with bipolar disease with the least amount of side-effect burden. Furthermore, these results may help us to design personalized treatments for individuals with bipolar disorder,” notes Dr. Friedman.

The AHRQ grant is part of investments made under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which designated $1.1 billion to support patient-centered outcomes research. This research is designed to inform health care decisions by providing evidence and information on the effectiveness, benefits and harms of different treatment options.

For additional information or to discuss eligibility for participation in the Bipolar CHOICE study, visit or call (412) 246-611.

Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) is considered to be one of the nation’s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities and one of the world’s leading centers for research and treatment of mental health disorders. WPIC houses the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and is the flagship of UPMC Behavioral Health, the psychiatric specialty division of UPMC.

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