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Dr. Ayal Schaffer co-authors major New England Journal of Medicine study on treatment of Bipolar I Depression

August 3, 2023

Dr. Ayal Schaffer, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and Associate Scientist with the Sunnybrook Research Institute, has co-authored a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine looking at adjunctive antidepressant maintenance in bipolar depression.

The report is the result of a multisite, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study conducted in Canada, Korea and India. The goal was to better understand the relapse prevention efficacy of using adjunctive antidepressants as long-term maintenance treatment for patients with bipolar I disorder after remission of a recent depressive episode. The researchers found that patients who continued antidepressant treatment (with the drugs escitalopram or bupropion XL) for 52 weeks after an acute episode did not show overall significant benefit in preventing relapse, as compared with treatment for 8 weeks, but secondary analysis showed fewer depressive relapses and more manic relapses.

Dr. Schaffer says the study is significant because it “arms clinicians and patients with data on the potential risks and benefits of continuing antidepressants in this context, so that any decision can be more evidence-informed.”

Adds Dr. Schaffer: “For patients at high risk of relapse into depression, these results may provide the clinician with greater comfort in continuing the antidepressant long-term. For other patients where preventing mania is more central, then this study quantifies the added risk if antidepressants are maintained.”

To learn more about the study, check out the New England Journal of Medicine’s QuickTake