Valproate for acute mania

Headline: Valproate is an effective antimanic treatment. Valproate may be inferior to olanzapine in adults. Valproate may be inferior to risperidone in acute mania in paediatric and adolescent populations.

Who may be interested in this review?
People with bipolar disorder and their healthcare providers.

Why is this review important?
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that is a common mental health problem. Patients may experience recurrent symptoms of elevated or irritable mood, depression, or a combination of both. Treatment is usually with psychiatric medication, including mood stabilisers, antidepressants and antipsychotics. Valproate is a drug traditionally used in the treatment of mania, but its effectiveness compared to some of the newer antipsychotics is yet to be firmly established.

What questions does this review aim to answer?
This review investigates the effectiveness and acceptability of valproate compared to placebo and other drugs in the treatment of acute manic episodes in bipolar disorder.

Which studies were included in the review?
The authors searched medical databases to find reports of clinical trials (specifically randomised controlled trials) published up to date. We identified 25 studies that involved 3252 participants as relevant. The studies compared the effects of valproate with placebo or other conventional medications, both on its own and in combination with other treatments.

What does the evidence from the review tell us?

We found high-quality evidence showing that valproate is more effective than placebo when used alone in adults. There is mixed evidence comparing olanzapine and valproate. Low-quality evidence did not find a difference in response rate of olanzapine compared to valproate. However, high-quality evidence suggests that olanzapine is better at reducing manic symptoms. This suggests olanzapine may be more effective. Moderate-quality evidence shows no difference in response rates between lithium and valproate. There is insufficient evidence to confidently assess any difference between valproate and other antimanic drugs in adults.

In children and adolescents, we found low-quality evidence that valproate is inferior to risperidone. The evidence is of insufficient quality to confidently assess any difference between valproate and other antimanic drugs in children and adolescents.

In terms of tolerability in adults, there is moderate-quality evidence that valproate causes more side effects than placebo and low-quality evidence it causes more side effects than oxcarbazepine. There is low-quality evidence that valproate may cause fewer side effects than carbamazepine. Low-quality evidence found no difference in the number of individuals with side effects when taking valproate compared to lithium. There is insufficient evidence to confidently assess any difference between valproate and other antimanic drugs in adults.

In children and adolescents, very-low quality evidence found no difference in the number of individuals with side effects when taking valproate compared to placebo.

Authors' conclusions: 

There is evidence that valproate is an efficacious treatment for acute mania in adults when compared to placebo. By contrast, there is no evidence of a difference in efficacy between valproate and placebo for children and adolescents. Valproate may be less efficacious than olanzapine in adults, and may also be inferior to risperidone as a monotherapy treatment for paediatric mania. Generally, there is uncertain evidence regarding whether valproate causes more or less side effects than the other main antimanic therapies. However, evidence suggests that valproate causes less weight gain and sedation than olanzapine.

Read the full abstract...
Background: 

Bipolar disorder is a severe and common mental disorder where patients experience recurrent symptoms of elevated or irritable mood, depression, or a combination of both. Treatment is usually with psychiatric medication, including mood stabilisers, antidepressants and antipsychotics. Valproate is an effective maintenance treatment for bipolar disorder. However, evidence assessing the efficacy of valproate in the treatment of acute mania is less robust, especially when comparing it to some of the newer antipsychotic agents. This review is an update of a previous Cochrane Review (last published 2003) on the role of valproate in acute mania.

Objectives: 

To assess the efficacy and tolerability of valproate for acute manic episodes in bipolar disorder compared to placebo, alternative pharmacological treatments, or a combination pharmacological treatments, as measured by the treatment of symptoms on specific rating scales for individual episodes in paediatric, adolescent and adult populations.

Search strategy: 

We searched Ovid MEDLINE (1950- ), Embase (1974- ), PsycINFO (1967- ) and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) to 28 September 2018. We had also conducted an earlier search of these databases in the Cochrane Common Mental Disorders Controlled Trials Register (CCMDCTR) (all years to 6 June 2016). We also searched the World Health Organization (WHO) trials portal (ICTRP) and clinicaltrials.gov in September 2018, to identify any additional unpublished or ongoing studies.

Selection criteria: 

Single- and double-blind, randomised controlled trials comparing valproate with placebo, alternative antimanic treatments, or a combination of pharmacological treatments. We also considered studies where valproate was used as an adjunctive treatment in combination with another agent separately from studies where it was used in monotherapy. We included male and female patients of all ages and ethnicity with bipolar disorder.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors independently performed data extraction and methodological quality assessment. For analysis, we used the odds ratio (OR) for binary efficacy outcomes and the mean difference (MD) or standardised mean difference (SMD) for continuously distributed outcomes.

Main results: 

Twenty-five trials (3252 participants) compared valproate with either placebo or alternative antimanic treatments to alleviate the symptoms of acute mania. For efficacy, our primary outcome was response rate. For tolerability, our primary outcome was the number of participants with any adverse effect. This meta-analysis included studies focusing on children, adolescents, as well as adults with a range of severity of manic symptoms. The majority of studies focused on adult men and women (aged 18 and above), were conducted in inpatient settings and completed in the US. Five studies in this review focused on children and adolescents (aged 18 and under) so that the review covers an age range from 3 - 82 years. Seven studies contained outpatient participants in some form. Nine studies included data that has been collected outside the US, namely Iran (4 studies), India (3 studies), China (1 study), or across several international countries (1 study).

In adults, high-quality evidence found that valproate induces a slightly higher response compared to placebo (45% vs 29%, OR 2.05, 95% CI 1.32 to 3.20; 4 studies, 869 participants). Moderate-quality evidence found there was probably little or no difference in response rates between valproate and lithium (56% vs 62%, OR 0.80, 95% CI 0.48 to 1.35; 3 studies, 356 participants). In adults, low-quality evidence found there may be little or no difference in response rate between valproate and olanzapine (38% vs 44%, OR 0.77, 95% CI 0.48 to 1.25; 2 studies, 667 participants).

In the children and adolescent population, the evidence regarding any difference in response rates between valproate and placebo was uncertain (23% vs 22%, OR 1.11, 95% CI 0.51 to 2.38; 1 study, 151 participants, very low-quality evidence). Low-quality evidence found that the response rate of participants receiving valproate may be lower compared to risperidone (23% vs 66%, OR 0.16, 95% CI 0.08 to 0.29; 1 study, 197 participants). The evidence regarding any difference in response rates between valproate and lithium was uncertain (23% vs 34%, OR 0.57, 95% CI 0.31 to 1.07; 1 study, 197 participants, very low-quality evidence).

In terms of tolerability in adults, moderate-quality evidence found that there are probably more participants receiving valproate who experienced any adverse events compared to placebo (83% vs 75%, OR 1.63, 95% CI 1.13 to 2.36; 3 studies, 745 participants). Low-quality evidence found there may be little or no difference in tolerability between valproate and lithium (78% vs 86%, OR 0.61, 95% CI 0.25 to 1.50; 2 studies, 164 participants). We did not obtain primary tolerability outcome data on the olanzapine comparison.

Within the children and adolescent population, the evidence regarding any difference between valproate or placebo was uncertain (67% vs 60%, OR 1.39, 95% CI 0.71 to 2.71; 1 study, 150 participants, very low-quality evidence). We did not obtain primary tolerability outcome data on the lithium or risperidone comparisons.

Share/Save