Effectiveness of bipolar disorder treatment may depend on patient’s genes

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A group of international scientists investigated how a patient’s genetic make-up could impact the effects of the drug lithium, which is used to treat mood disorders including bipolar and depression.

Despite being the most effective bipolar treatment available, the study found that lithium only works for about a third of the people who take it.

University of New South Wales’ head of psychiatry Philip Mitchell, one of the co-authors of the study, said they had found that while one third of patients did partially well, one third did not respond at all.


“Bipolar disorder is a very difficult condition to treat,” he said.

“It’s very disruptive and also over time, it’s recurrent, so people have repeated episodes of manic highs and depressed lows which really damage people’s lives.

“The imperative is to stop those episodes recurring. When you get the treatment correct though, it can just make an enormous difference to people’s lives.”

The study, published in the Lancet journal, was a collaboration between researchers all over the world from the International Consortium on Lithium Genetics.


The researchers concluded that different genetic markers may determine how well patients respond to the lithium.

“There’s been growing evidence that the response to lithium appears to run in families, which has suggested that there are probably genetic determinants of who benefits from lithium,” Professor Mitchell said.

Read full, original post: Bipolar treatment: Genetics change people’s response to lithium, study finds

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