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Archive for the ‘Medication’ Category

possible autism cure?

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, Medication, Psychiatry on Friday, 28 March 2014 at 04:08

http://www.stonehearthnewsletters.com/autistic-brain-could-be-rebalanced-with-low-doses-of-antianxiety-drugs/autism/

Drug Firm Pays Billions for Misbranding Antipsychotics

In Medication, Medicine, Psychiatry on Thursday, 5 December 2013 at 10:04

December 04, 2013

Drug Firm Pays Billions for Misbranding Antipsychotics

Vabren Watts

Johnson & Johnson was sued for failing to report data suggesting increased risks for stroke and diabetes associated with the antipsychotic Risperdal.

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) announced November 4 that it will plead guilty to a single misdemeanor charge that it misbranded the atypical antipsychotic drug Risperdal for uses not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

A part of one of the largest health care fraud settlements in U.S. history, the pharmaceutical company has agreed to pay $2.2 billion to resolve criminal and civil investigations, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

Risperdal (risperidone)—a dopaminergic antagonist—was FDA approved to treat schizophrenia in 1993 and approved in 2003 to treat mixed episodes associated with bipolar I disorder. A complaint filed by the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania alleged that Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a J&J subsidiary and Risperdal’s developer, began to market the drug from 1999 through 2005 to remedy agitation associated with dementia in the elderly and psychiatric disorders in children—indicating to physicians and other prescribers that Risperdal was safe and effective for these unapproved indications and populations.

According to the FDA, J&J received several warnings regarding its misleading marketing tactics targeted to physicians and consumers. After a whistleblower complaint was filed, the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations initiated a probe concerning J&J’s alleged misconduct.

“When pharmaceutical companies ignore the FDA’s requirements, they not only risk endangering the public’s health but also damaging the trust that patients have in their doctors and their medications,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D. “The FDA relies on data from rigorous scientific research to define and approve the uses for which a drug has been shown to be safe and effective…. Pharmaceutical manufacturers that ignore the FDA’s regulatory authority do so at their own peril.”

The Department of Justice further alleged that J&J was aware that Risperdal posed serious health risks, including increased risks for the onset of diabetes, breast development in boys, and strokes in elderly patients.

During the investigation, a physician who worked on a J&J study claimed that the company was “purposely withholding the findings” that showed that Risperdal increased risk for stroke in elderly patients after the company combined negative data with other studies to make it appear that there was an overall lower risk for adverse events. In addition, the company promoted Risperdal as “uncompromised by safety concerns (does not cause diabetes),” ignoring data that indicated otherwise.

As a result of its practices and misconduct, the company has agreed to submit to stringent requirements under a corporate integrity agreement with Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General. The agreement is designed to increase accountability and transparency and prevent future fraud.

Psychiatric News contacted J&J to ask how the company plans to regain trust among clinicians and consumers. Michael Ullmann, J&J vice president and general counsel, replied in a statement saying, “This resolution allows us to move forward and continue to focus on delivering innovative solutions that improve and enhance the health and well-being of patients around the world. We remain committed to working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and others to ensure greater clarity around the guidance for pharmaceutical industry practices and standards.”

Though J&J acknowledged that it improperly marketed Risperdal to older adults for unapproved uses, the pharmaceutical firm admitted to no wrongdoing for accusations that it promoted drug use in children and the developmentally disabled and that it provided kickbacks to doctors and pharmacists in exchange for writing more prescriptions.

The agreement will also resolve similar misbranding accusations for the company’s heart failure drug, Natrecor, and newer antipsychotic drug, Invega.

Retrieved from: http://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/newsarticle.aspx?articleid=1788265

weed…it’s not just for breakfast anymore…

In Alternative Health, General Psychology, Medication, Medicine on Wednesday, 21 August 2013 at 08:21

i have always respected sanjay gupta and appreciate that he, unlike MANY others in medicine and related fields, is able to apologize and say he was wrong and has researched the topic and come up with his professional opinions based on data and experience. we put so many legal drugs into our systems with serious side effects but think nothing of it since they are prescribed by doctors. perhaps it is time to look at alternative medicine. especially that that is natural and not chemically manufactured. how many times do we hear about drugs recalls based on serious side effects (including death) that have been prescribed or the misuse and abuse of “legal” drugs. we have bigger problems than “weed.” as for recreational drugs, alcohol kills from accidents, abuse, overdose, etc., but there are no discussions to go back to prohibition. very interesting article.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/08/health/gupta-changed-mind-marijuana/index.html?sr=sharebar_facebook

Breakthrough in biosensing: New virus detection method under development

In Fitness/Health, Medication, Medicine on Sunday, 16 December 2012 at 16:05

Breakthrough in biosensing: New virus detection method under development.

ADHD medication could help cut crime rates, Swedish study finds

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, ADHD stimulant treatment, Medication, Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology on Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 08:32

ADHD medication could help cut crime rates, Swedish study finds

Many ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) sufferers are less likely to commit a crime while on appropriate medication, a Swedish study found.

Freya Petersen

November 22, 2012

Many ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) sufferers are less likely to commit a crime while on appropriate medication, a Swedish study found.

The study, by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, found that while people with ADHD were far more likely to break the law, the use of Ritalin, Adderall and other drugs to curb hyperactivity and boost attention markedly reduced rates of reoffending, the Associated Press reported.

The researchers focused on older teens and adults with ADHD, studying a Swedish registry of more than 25,650 people with ADHD and comparing their medication history with criminal records from 2006 to 2009, WebMD reported.

The number of crimes committed was about a third or more lower in those taking medication, the study found.

Lead author Paul Lichtenstein said in a statement quoted by Reuters:

“It’s said that roughly 30 to 40 percent of long-serving criminals have ADHD. If their chances of recidivism can be reduced by 30 percent, it would clearly affect total crime numbers in many societies.”

Support groups and preventative medicine experts seized on the study results, saying better access to medication could reduce crime.

They also said it demonstrated the efficacy of medications in older patients.

About 5 percent of children in the US and other Western countries reportedly have ADHD, characterized by impulsiveness, hyperactivity and difficulty paying attention.

While children are routinely given medication to help them focus in school, many sufferers retain symptoms into adulthood.

The AP quoted Dr. William Cooper, a pediatrics and preventive medicine professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, as saying:

“There definitely is a perception that it’s a disease of childhood and you outgrow your need for medicines. We’re beginning to understand that ADHD is a condition for many people that really lasts throughout their life.”

The findings were published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.

Retrieved from: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/health/121122/adhd-attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-crime-sweden-swedish-study?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

placebos and personality…

In Medication, Medicine on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 13:04

Personality Predicts Placebo Effect

People with certain personality traits are more likely to get pain relief from a placebo, a finding that could help improve clinical trials.

By Dan Cossins | November 16, 2012

Individuals who are altruistic, resilient, and straightforward show greater activity in brain regions associated with reward and are more likely to enjoy pain relief when a placebo is administered during a painful experience, according to a study reported this week (November 15) in Neuropsychopharmacology. The findings suggest that simple personality tests could be used to improve the accuracy of clinical trials by identifying people likely to skew results with high placebo responses.

“This is interesting because it’s one of the first studies to look at how personality traits are associated with placebo analgesia not only in terms of subjective reports of pain relief, but also with quite solid objective measures in key parts of the brain,” said Tor Wager, a neuroscientist at the University of Boulder, Colorado, who was not involved in the study.

Placebos are known to have strong analgesic effects. In 2007, neuroscientist Jon-Kar Zubieta of the University of Michigan showed that such effects were associated with activity in the nucleus accumbens, a brain region involved in reward and pleasure. That suggested that placebo analgesia might occur in part because positive expectations of reward (pain relief) spike dopamine levels in the brain and stimulate the release of endogenous painkillers called mu-opioids.

But individuals vary considerably in their responses, and some studies have suggested that personality traits such as optimism and anxiety may predict response levels. Others have found that a composite of personality traits—including novelty seeking, harm avoidance, fun seeking, and reward responsiveness, which are thought to be related to dopamine reward circuits—can predict a substantial portion of placebo analgesic effects. Still, “there was nothing terribly conclusive,” said Zubieta.

To better understand how personality is associated with placebo analgesia, Zubieta and his colleagues assessed the personality traits of 47 healthy volunteers. Then they asked each volunteer to lie in a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner for the duration of a standard pain challenge. First, painless isotonic saline was injected into the jaw muscle and, 20 minutes later, a pain-inducing hypotonic injection. Volunteers were told about these two conditions but not the order in which they would occur, allowing for expectation of pain in both conditions. The conditions were then repeated for another scan session but this time the volunteers were given a placebo consisting of intravenous infusions of isotonic saline every 4 minutes, which they were told would reduce pain.

The PET scan recorded the activation of endogenous opioid receptors in the brain, and blood samples were taken every 10 minutes to measure placebo-induced changes in the stress hormone cortisol. Meanwhile, the volunteers were also asked to rate the intensity of the pain they felt every 15 seconds.

The researchers observed significant reductions in pain intensity ratings in response to placebo, but found that expectation of analgesia—measured by asking the volunteers during the pain challenge—was not significantly correlated with response, suggesting that positive expectations alone are not enough for a placebo-induced pain response.

But they also found that people with certain personality traits—specifically, those who scored high on resiliency, altruism, and straightforwardness, and low on measures of “angry hostility”—were more likely to experience a placebo-induced painkilling response. Importantly, such individuals also had decreased cortisol levels and greater activation of endogenous opioid receptors in brain regions associated with reward.

“We were able to link some personality traits with analgesia response at the level of brain chemistry,” said Zubieta, as well as subjective feelings. In fact, statistical analyses showed that a composite of these four traits accounted for 25 percent of the variance in subjectively reported placebo analgesic responses, and for 27 percent of the variance observed in objective measures like the activation of endogenous opioid receptors.

“Studies like this are giving us a new set of candidate personality measures that can predict for placebo analgesia, and they’re mostly positive traits,” said Wager. “So placebo responders are being cast in a much more positive light, personality-wise, than they were a few decades ago, when they were thought to be hysterical and neurotic. ”

If replicated with larger sample sizes, the results suggest that these new measures could also help to improve the accuracy of clinical trials, Zubieta added. “One big difficulty is trying to control for people with very high placebo response,” he said. “Many trials fail not because the compound doesn’t work, but because placebos are also effective, which creates noise.” By using personality measures to stratify those more likely to exhibit a placebo effect and incorporate the likelihood of a placebo response into the data analyses, researchers may be able to more effectively identify a drug’s true effect, Zubieta said.

M. Pecina et al., “Personality Trait Predictors of Placebo Analgesia and Neurobiological Correlates,” Neuropsychopharmacology, doi: 10.1038/NPP.2012.227, 2012

Clarification (November 16, 2012): The introduction was changed to more clearly reflect that both the greater activity in brain regions associated with reward and the reported pain relief resulted from the placebo administered to volunteers during a painful a experience.

Retrieved from: http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/33300/title/Personality-Predicts-Placebo-Effect/

The Serotonin Hypothesis, Informed Consent and SSRI Antidepressants

In Medication, Mood Disorders, Neuropsychology, Neuroscience, Psychiatry on Wednesday, 31 October 2012 at 15:36

The Serotonin Hypothesis, Informed Consent and SSRI Antidepressants.

happy birthday, glutamate.

In Medication, Neuropsychology, Neuroscience, Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology, Uncategorized on Wednesday, 31 October 2012 at 15:20

Twenty Five Years of Glutamate in Schizophrenia

Daniel C. Javitt

Schizophr Bull. 2012;38(5):911-913. © 2012 Oxford University Press

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

At present, all medications for schizophrenia function primarily by blocking dopamine D2 receptors. Over 50 years ago, the first observations were made that subsequently led to development of alternative, glutamatergic conceptualizations. This special issue traces the historic development of the phencyclidine (PCP) model of schizophrenia from the initial description of the psychotomimetic effects of PCP in the early 1960s, through discovery of the link to N-methyl-D-aspartate-type glutamate receptors (NMDAR) in the 1980s, and finally to the development of NMDA-based treatment strategies starting in the 1990s. NMDAR antagonists uniquely reproduce both positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, and induce schizophrenia-like cognitive deficits and neurophysiological dysfunction. At present, there remain several hypotheses concerning mechanisms by which NMDAR dysfunction leads to symptoms/deficits, and several theories regarding ideal NMDAR-based treatment approaches as outlined in the issue. Several classes of agent, including metabotropic glutamate agonists, glycine transport inhibitors, and D-serine-based compounds are currently in late-stage clinical development and may provide long-sought treatments for persistent positive and negative symptoms and cognitive dysfunction in schizophrenia.

Introduction

The mid-20th century was an exciting period for drug development in psychiatry. Antipsychotics were developed based on the seminal observations of Delay and Deniker and linked to D2 blockade shortly thereafter. By 1971, clozapine, the current “gold standard” treatment for schizophrenia, had already been marketed. Antidepressants were developed based on clinical observations with isoniazid (INH) in the 1950s; benzodiazepines were developed based upon GABA receptor-binding assays in the 1960s; and definitive studies demonstrating efficacy of lithium were performed by the early 1970s. Decades later, these classes of compounds continue to form the core of today’s psychopharmacological armamentarium.

In the midst of this transformational period, initial reports appeared as well for a class of novel sedative agent termed “dissociative anesthetics” exemplified by the molecules phencyclidine (PCP, “angel dust”) and ketamine. In monkeys, these compounds produced behavioral symptoms closely resembling those of schizophrenia, including behavioral withdrawal at low dose and catalepsy at high dose (figure 1). Domino and Luby[1] describe the critical steps by which he and his contemporaries verified the unique clinical effects of these compounds in man. The initial characterizations of PCP as causing a centrally mediated sensory deprivation syndrome and producing electroencephalography changes similar to those in schizophrenia were, in retrospect, particularly critical.

Figure 1.

Effect of phencyclidine (PCP) on behavior in monkey, showing dissociation at low dose (A) and catatonia at high dose (B). From Chen and Weston.12

Although the clinical effects of PCP were well documented by the early 1960s, it took another 20 years to characterize these effects at the molecular level. As described by Coyle,[2] key milestones along the way included the pharmacological identification of the PCP receptor in 1979; demonstration of electrophysiological interactions between PCP and N-methyl-D-aspartate-type glutamate receptors (NMDAR) in the early 1980s followed shortly thereafter by pharmacological confirmation; identification of the glycine modulatory site of the NMDAR in 1987; and confirmation of the psychotomimetic effects of ketamine in the mid-1990s. Although researchers still disagree to the paths leading from NMDAR blockade to psychosis, few currently dispute the concept that NMDAR serve as the molecular target of PCP, ketamine, dizocilpine (MK-801), and a host of other clinical psychotomimetic agents.[2–4]

At their simplest, glutamatergic models predict that compounds stimulating NMDAR function should be therapeutically beneficial in schizophrenia.[2,4] Potential sites for intervention include the glycine/D-serine and redox sites of the NMDAR, as well as pathways regulating glutamate, glycine/D-serine, and glutathione synthesis/release.[4] D-Cycloserine, a partial NMDAR glycine-site agonist, may enhance learning and neural plasticity across a range of disorders, including schizophrenia.[5] In addition to providing new drug targets, glutamatergic models provide effective explanation for the hippocampal activation deficits,[6] positive and negative symptoms, distributed neurocognitive deficits, and sensory processing abnormalities[4] that are critical components of the pathophysiology of schizophrenia.

Since the original description, several variations have been developed with somewhat different treatment predictions. The term “NMDA receptor hypofunction” was originally developed to describe the vacuolization and neurodegeneration seen within specific brain regions following high-dose NMDAR antagonist administration.[7] In animal models, neurotoxic effects of PCP were reversed by numerous compounds, including benzodiazepines and α2 adrenergic agonists that ultimately proved ineffective in clinical studies. Nevertheless, this model may explain the pattern of persistent frontotemporal neurocognitive deficits observed in some ketamine abusers.[8] Subsequent hyperglutamatergic models focused on the excess glutamate release induced by NMDAR antagonists, particularly in prefrontal cortex, and prompted studies with compounds, such as lamotrigine or metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) 2/3 agonists, that inhibit presynaptic glutamate release.[9] GABAergic models focus on NMDAR antagonist-induced downregulation of parvalbumin (PV) expression in interneurons and resultant local circuit level (gamma) dysfunction, and suggest use of subunit selective GABAA receptor modulators.[10]

More than 50 years after the initial characterization of PCP, and 25 years after the identification of NMDARs as the molecular target of PCP, we still do not know whether the novel pharmacology of dissociative anesthetics can be translated into effective clinical treatments. Encouraging small-scale single site studies have been published with NMDAR agonists, but have not yet been replicated in academic multicenter trials. Encouraging phase 2 results have also recently been reported by Roche with glycine transport inhibitors.[4] Nevertheless, phase 3 studies remain ongoing and results cannot be predicted. Additional beneficial effects may be observed in obsessive-compulsive disorder, substance abuse and Parkinsons disease.[4] Conversely, NMDAR antagonists, such as ketamine, may be therapeutically beneficial in treatment-resistant depression or autism, suggesting complementary pathology across a range of disorders.[11] More than anything else, 50 years of research shows that treatment development in neuropsychiatric disorders is a journey and not a destination, although fortunately one where the end now finally seems in sight.

Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/771599?src=nl_topic

References

  1. Domino EF, Luby ED. Phencyclidine/schizophrenia: one view toward the past, the other to the future Schizophr Bull. 2012.In press.
  2. Coyle JT. The NMDA receptor and schizophrenia: a brief history Schizophr Bull. 2012.In press
  3. Javitt DC, Zukin SR. Recent advances in the phencyclidine model of schizophrenia Am J Psychiatry 1991 148 1301–1308
  4. Javitt DC. Has an angel shown the way? Etiological and therapeutic implications of the PCP/NMDA model of schizophrenia. Schizophr Bull In press.
  5. Goff D. D-cycloserine: an evolving role in learning and neuroplasticity in schizophrenia.Schizophr Bull In press.
  6. Tamminga CA, Southcott S, Sacco C, Gao XM, Ghose S. Glutamate dysfunction in hippocampus: relevance of dentate gyrus and ca3 signaling.Schizophr Bull. 2012. In press
  7. Olney JW, Newcomer JW, Farber NB. NMDA receptor hypofunction model of schizophrenia J Psychiatr Res.1999 33 523–533
  8. Morgan CJ, Muetzelfeldt L, Curran HV. Consequences of chronic ketamine self-administration upon neurocognitive function and psychological wellbeing: a 1-year longitudinal study Addiction 2010 105 121–133
  9. Moghaddam B, Krystal JH. Capturing the angel in angel dust: twenty years of translational neuroscience studies of NMDA receptor antagonists in animals and humans Schizophr Bull. In press.
  10. Lewis DA, Gonzalez-Burgos G. NMDA receptor hypofunction, parvalbumin-positive neurons and cortical gamma oscillations in schizophrenia. Schizophr Bull In press.
  11. Javitt DC, Schoepp D, Kalivas PW, et al. Translating glutamate: from pathophysiology to treatment. Sci Transl Med. 2011;3:102mr102.
  12. Chen GM, Weston JK. The analgesic and anesthetic effects of 1-(1-phenylcyclohexyl)-piperidine HCl in the monkey Anesth Analg. 1960 39 132–137

The Unfulfilled Promises of Psychotropics

In Brain studies, Medication, Neuropsychology, Neuroscience, Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology on Sunday, 14 October 2012 at 11:33

The Unfulfilled Promises of Psychotropics

By Richard Kensinger, MSW

I remember thinking over 40 years ago when I began my clinical career, that with the rapid advances made in psychotropic agents, psychotherapy would become a venture of the past. A recent editorial published in Schizophrenia Bulletindispels my myth of becoming unemployed.

Psychopharmacology is in crisis. The data are in, and it is clear that a massive experiment has failed: despite decades of research and billions of dollars invested, not a single mechanistically novel drug has reached the psychiatric market in more than 30 years. Indeed, despite enormous effort, the field has not been able to escape the “me too/me (questionably) better” straightjacket. In recent years, the appreciation of this reality has had profound consequences for innovation in psychopharmacology because nearly every major pharmaceutical company has either reduced greatly or abandoned research and development of mechanistically novel psychiatric drugs. This decision is understandable because pharmaceutical and biotechnology executives see less risky opportunities in other therapeutic areas, cancer and immunology being the current pipeline favorites. Indeed, in retrospect, one can wonder why it took so long for industry to abandon psychiatry therapeutics. So how did we get here and more importantly, what do we need to do to find a way forward?

The discovery of all three major classes of psychiatric drugs, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anxiolytics, came about on the basis of serendipitous clinical observation. At the time of their discoveries, the mechanisms by which these molecules produce their effects were unknown, and it was only later that antipsychotics were shown to be D2 receptor antagonists, antidepressants monoamine reuptake inhibitors, and anxiolytics GABA receptor modulators. It is interesting and perhaps instructive to consider whether any of these classes of drugs could have been discovered by current drug discovery strategies. For example, what genetic or preclinical data exist that point to the D2 dopamine receptor as a likely target for antipsychotic activity? Presently there are no genetic data that suggest that this receptor is expressed or functions abnormally in psychotic disorders (emphasis added). And without the benefit of the prior clinical validation, it is difficult to see how preclinical data alone would point to the D2 receptor as an interesting potential target for the treatment of psychotic disorders. The same can be said for monoamine transporters with respect to depression where, like psychosis, there are no animal models based on disease pathophysiology and no compelling preclinical data pointing to these as potential targets for antidepressant drugs. This raises a troubling question: if in retrospect the three major classes of currently prescribed psychiatric drugs would likely never have been discovered using current drug discovery strategies, why should we believe that such strategies are likely to bear fruit now or in the future?

Given that there cannot be a coherent biology for syndromes as heterogeneous as schizophrenia, it is not surprising that the field has failed to validate distinct molecular targets for the purpose of developing mechanistically novel therapeutics. Although it has taken our field too long to gain this insight, we seem to be getting there. For example, at the 2011 meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, the need for change and the need for new strategies were predominant themes.

In summation the excitement in the past two decades about the “Decades of the Brain” are fading to realism. Our human genome is much more complex than we can imagine. Half of our genes are devoted to brain form and function. The interaction between geneotype and phenotype is also more complex that we realize. Thus, we are approaching this science with more skepticism and realism.

Reference

Fibiger HC (2012). Psychiatry, the pharmaceutical industry, and the road to better therapeutics. Schizophrenia bulletin, 38 (4), 649-50 PMID: 22837348

Retrieved from: http://brainblogger.com/2012/10/08/the-unfulfilled-promises-of-psychotropics/

 

adhd… a “made up” disorder, redux

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, ADHD stimulant treatment, Medication, Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology on Friday, 12 October 2012 at 17:38

and here we go, folks! on the heels of my post, 10 October 2012, regarding the good doctor anderson (http://wp.me/p2IpfL-9p), the debate is starting yet once again.  sigh.  you know, this gets a bit boring after a while.   but i do believe we have vastly improved mechanisms of study (fmri, genomic medicine…fantastic stuff!) and robust set of data and literature to support that it’s a valid disorder.  and, i hesitate to even take a stand as to which i ascribe to.  in the end, you are allowed to believe what you want, as long as you aren’t hurting anybody else (if you are hurting yourself) by holding those beliefs.  i would just like to see the actual data that these people base their opinions on.  i don’t believe there is a place for opinions is science.  and diagnosing and prescribing is done based mostly on quantitative data.  

the data (quantitative) speaks for itself , imo.  and to me, the best decisions are made when examining QUANTITATIVE data.  but, as i’ve told you in something i wrote at some point (one musing or another…), i am a ‘quantoid.’  i will always be biased towards quantifiable data.  that’s me.  come to your own conclusions.  i just prefer to come to mine quantifiably.    and that’s a WHOLE other post!  at any rate, as you see below, the debate continues…pick a side.

Should Children Take ADHD Drugs — Even If They Don’t Have The Disorder?

Emily Willingham, Contributor

The discussion is at least twice as old as my 10-year-old son with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Should we medicate children with ADHD drugs just to keep order in the classroom or help the child be competitive among peers? I know it’s at least 20 years old, this argument, because it was a subject of almost daily discussion in teachers’ lounges when I taught middle school in the ’90s, and because the tension among teachers, parents, and the children taking the drugs often spilled into the hallways. And this all was in private schools. I can only imagine that the intensity was multifold in the public school setting.

The age of a controversy, as anyone in public health can tell you, doesn’t necessarily diminish its relevance or the passions it inspires. That’s why this piece by Alan Schwarz in the New York Times has yielded some serious angst in many circles. It takes as its center a doctor who, Schwarz writes, prescribes ADHD drugs off-label for children he avers don’t have ADHD, saying that because the schools won’t do what they should to help low-income kids learn, we “have to modify the kid.”

This physician, Dr. Michael Anderson, also happens to be among those who dismiss ADHD is a “made-up” disorder, in spite of considerable evidence linking specific gene variants to ADHD and suggesting a large genetic component [PDF]. He’s another contributor to the ever-present backlash against ADHD as a diagnostic entity, but instead of blaming lazy parents this time, he blames the school system, one that neglects children whose behaviors in a classroom might be ameliorated by an appropriate environment, in the absence of which, medications have to do the job. He certainly has a point … to a point.

His attitude about ADHD, though, is what’s fueled the concerns I’ve seen about this article, particularly from people who love someone with ADHD. ADHD, you see, has a terrible reputation, one that suffers in large part because of abuse of drugs used to treat the condition. Many, many drugs exist that people use off-label to self medicate or boost performance. But I can’t think of drugs whose abuse stigmatizes the disorder for which they’re actually used as much as ADHD drugs do. And abuse of ADHD meds is inextricably linked with skepticism about the ADHD diagnosis: neurobiological conditions that overlap with the typical zones of behavior suffer from this kind of skepticism, but ADHD stands out. Blame for the drug abuse and diagnostic overuse heaps on doctors, parents, teachers, society, and people diagnosed with it. Are any of these groups to blame for the existence of ADHD? Generally, no. But some are to blame for its bad reputation and the abuse of the drugs used to treat it.

Drugs to treat ADHD work, as I’ve written before, but they carry known risks, and we still won’t know for some years what the long-term outcomes are following their use in childhood. Schwarz describes in his article a child taking the medication Adderallwho begins see people and hear voices that aren’t there, a rare side effect of the drug. That child is no longer on Adderall and instead is now takingRisperdal, a psychotropic medication with indications for schizophrenia and irritability associated with autism. It is not an “ADHD drug,” and it too carries potential risks that need to underweigh its benefits to warrant its use. One of the primary benefits of ADHD medications for children with the condition, in addition to the academic, is that the perceived improvement in behavior can translate into better social relationships and a reduction in the constant messages that they receive that they are a “bad person.” Whether or not they ultimately absorb that message as an inherent part of themselves remains to be seen.

In addition to prescribing Adderall to this boy, Anderson also prescribed it to two of the child’s siblings. In the article, the parents think that this prescription is an off-label use of Adderall, and the article holds up these two children as examples of using this drug to improve behavior and classroom performance in the absence of an ADHD indication. Yet Anderson then is reported as saying that all of the children for whom he has prescribed ADHD medications have met the criteria for ADHD, including these two children, whose parents don’t seem to know that. In other words, this story is about children who meet the ADHD criteria receiving drugs to treat ADHD and experiencing benefits, not about a broader use of ADHD drugs off-label to level the classroom playing field.

Forbes writer Matthew Herper blogged today that the NYT piece “hits the problem with ADHD drugs: they work.” Yes, they do. They work for ADHD, based on the only examples provided in this article, not more broadly for low-income children who just need more drug-induced focus in the classroom. Whether the doctor “rails” against the diagnostic criteria or not, the children taking–and responding to–Adderall in this article all met the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis. Indeed, low-income children are most likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD yet least likely to receive appropriate pharmaceutical intervention for it.  So whether he likes it or not, the doctor, by applying existing criteria, might have appropriately identified and treated children with ADHD who otherwise would have fallen through the cracks.

That doesn’t mean that we’re not still facing a brave new world in which college students pop Adderall for exams or driven high-school students are torn between the med boost and simply making it on their own, as they are. As Herper notes, there’s an important national conversation to be had around ADHD drugs and their off-label use to level the field or give an advantage. In his post, Herper asks, “Can we avoid a world in which thinkers are forced into brain-doping in the same way athletes have been pushed to chemically modify their bodies?” In neither case do we know the long-term positive or negative outcomes for the individuals being doped, whether for brain or brawn. I can’t speak about athletes, but as someone who has taught thousands of students from ages 5 to 65, I can say this: What we, in our short-sightedness, view as a childhood deficit because of its interference with classroom function can often yield our most beautiful manifestations of human thought and diversity later in life. Do medications help children with ADHD? Yes, they do. But … and I think this is the real point of the Schwarz piece, even as the examples simply bear out efficacy of ADHD meds for ADHD: We can’t look to the children for what needs “fixing.” For that, we must look to ourselves, and the depth and breadth of our problems with education in this country aren’t something even a full-scale, population-wide pill can fix.

Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/2012/10/09/adhd-drugs-for-children-who-dont-have-adhd-is-it-ok/

 

ketamine isn’t just for kitties anymore…

In Medication, Mood Disorders, Neuroscience, Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology on Thursday, 11 October 2012 at 14:43

Ketamine a Viable Option for Severe Depression?

Megan Brooks

October 11, 2012 — The discovery that ketamine produces rapid antidepressant effects in patients with severe treatment-resistant depression is fueling basic neuroscience research, leading to a greater understanding of the neurobiology of depression and maybe more effective treatments, a new review suggests.

Ketamine, an N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptor antagonist, is best known in medicine as an anesthetic but also has some notoriety as a street drug, sometimes dubbed “Special K,” and is taken illicitly for its psychedelic effects.

However, recently ketamine has gained interest among researchers for its potential as a unique, rapid-acting antidepressant.

Typical antidepressants such as the serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) take weeks to months to have an effect and are only moderately effective, leaving more than one third of depressed patients resistant to drug therapy.

“The rapid therapeutic response of ketamine in treatment-resistant patients is the biggest breakthrough in depression research in half a century,” review author Ronald Duman, PhD, professor of psychiatry and neurobiology at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, said in a statement.

However, Dr. Dunham told Medscape Medical News, although clearly promising for depression, ketamine does have some roadblocks.

“It produces transient side effects [for about 1 hour], including mild hallucinations and dissociative effects in some patients, subsequent to the antidepressant response. Ketamine is also a drug of abuse, so caution is needed when considering widespread use of this agent.”

“Nevertheless, there are millions of depressed patients who do not respond to conventional antidepressants and are in dire need of a drug like ketamine,” Dr. Duman added.

With Dr. Duman and coauthor George Aghajanian, MD, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Yale University, the review was published October 5 in Science.

Timely, Authoritative

Commenting for Medscape Medical News, James W. Murrough, MD, from Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program in New York City, described the article as a “timely, well written, and authoritative review by 2 neuroscience researchers who have really done the bulk of the work looking at the biological basis for how ketamine might bring about a rapid antidepressant effect.”

The original link between ketamine and relief of depression was made by John Krystal, MD, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Yale, and Dennis Charney, MD, formerly of Yale, now professor of psychiatry, neuroscience, and pharmacology and dean at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

In 2000, they published results of a small, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study showing that intravenous infusions of ketamine produced significant and rapid antidepressant effects (Berman et al; Biol Psychiatry, 2000;47:351-354).

“That was the first controlled study that showed that ketamine had sort of an unexpected rapid antidepressant effect in patients,” said Dr. Murrough. “We knew it was a glutamate antagonist, but at this time (in 2000), the role of glutamate in depression was not at all on the radar.”

That study was followed by an article published in 2006 that also showed rapid (within 2 hours) and significant antidepressant effects after a single infusion of ketamine in 18 patients with treatment-resistant depression (Zarate Jr et al; Arch Gen Psychiatry, 2006;63:856-864).

Since then, a number of studies replicated and extended the findings — including a study by Carlos Zarate Jr, MD, and colleagues published in 2010 in Archives of General Psychiatry and reported by Medscape Medical News at the time.

These studies sent neuroscientists on a quest to figure out at a cellular level, using animal models, how ketamine worked and what it could reveal about depression.

Jury Still Out

The literature suggests that depression is caused by disruption of homeostatic mechanisms that control synaptic plasticity, resulting in destabilization and loss of synaptic connections in mood and emotion circuitry, the authors note. Ketamine appears to target synaptic dysfunction in depression.

The findings highlight the “central importance of homeostatic control of mood circuit connections and form the basis of a synaptogenic hypothesis of depression and treatment response,” the review authors write.

Is ketamine currently used to treat refractory depression?

“A year ago, I would have said no, it’s not being used clinically. But in the last year, I’ve run into patients who’ve said they had been treated with low-dose ketamine by their psychiatrist, and doctors at national meetings who’ve said they’ve used it in their practice, but it’s very sparse, it’s far from widespread,” said Dr. Murrough.

It is important to note, he added, that to date, most of the research has been limited to the effects of a single dose.

At a medical conference in June, as reported by Medscape Medical News, Dr. Murrough and colleagues demonstrated that administration of 6 low-dose infusions of ketamine over 2 weeks improved symptoms in a small study of patients with treatment-resistant depression.

It helped “at least while they were getting the ketamine, then there was a relapse that came in as few as a couple days to several months or longer in a few cases,” he said.

Dr. Murrough said he and his colleagues are now “closing out” another study of ketamine that should be published in a couple of months. Other trials are ongoing.

“The jury is still out on whether ketamine itself could be developed into a bona fide treatment. We happen to believe that it can be. We advocate a cautious approach, but we are cautiously optimistic that ketamine could be a treatment option for severe refractory depression,” he said.

“The benchmark treatment right now for severe refractory depression is electroconvulsive therapy [ECT],” Dr. Murrough pointed out, “so you’d have to believe that ketamine has a worse risk-benefit profile than ECT, and so far, we don’t see that; it appears to be very well tolerated.”

Dr. Duman and Dr. Aghajanian have disclosed no relevant financial relationships. In the past 2 years, Dr. Murrough has received research support from Evotec Neurosciences and Janssen Research & Development. Dr. Charney has been named as an inventor on a use patent of ketamine for the treatment of depression. If ketamine were shown to be effective in the treatment of depression and received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for this indication, Dr. Charney and Mount Sinai School of Medicine could benefit financially.

Science. 2012;338:68-72. Abstract

Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/772467?src=nl_topic

ADHD…a “made up” disorder???

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, ADHD stimulant treatment, Medication, Neuropsychology, Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology, School Psychology on Thursday, 11 October 2012 at 10:37

while i do think adhd is the “diagnosis of the day” and it may be over-diagnosed, i DO NOT agree that it is a “made up”  disorder or “an excuse.”  you only have to look at the latest studies that compare treated and untreated brains of those diagnosed with adhd to see that there are real neurological and neuroanatomical deficits that can arise if adhd is left untreated (for one example, see: Adult ADHD: New Findings in Neurobiology and Genetics ; Scott H. Kollins, Ph.D.  http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/765528).  

if you think you or someone you know has adhd, the following lists suggestions to make sure you receive a valid diagnosis and what to help to facilitate that*:

A good evaluation may consist of many of the following:

  • Collection of rating scales and referral information before or during the evaluation  
  • An interview with the student and parents
  • A review of previous records that may document impairments (i.e. problems in school, socially, or at home that you believe can be attributed to ADHD.  A good doctor knows exactly what questions to ask.
  • A general medical examination when medication might be part of treatment or coexisting medical conditions need to be evaluated (if the physician hasn’t already done this). 

 What to take along to facilitate these steps:  

  • Any records from schools you.your child attended and any other documentation of problems that could be related to ADHD or another disorder 
  • A list of family members with mental health known disorders
  • A description of impairments during childhood (i.e. elementary school), as well as more recent ones (i.e. middle school).  This can be done via SST notes, progress reports, psychological evaluations, IEP’s, etc.

*adapted from: Barkley, Russell A. (2011-04-04). Taking Charge of Adult ADHD (Kindle Locations 464-483). Guilford Press. Kindle Edition.

Attention Disorder or Not, Pills to Help in School

Alan Schwarz

CANTON, Ga. — When Dr. Michael Anderson hears about his low-income patients struggling in elementary school, he usually gives them a taste of some powerful medicine: Adderall.

The pills boost focus and impulse control in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Although A.D.H.D is the diagnosis Dr. Anderson makes, he calls the disorder “made up” and “an excuse” to prescribe the pills to treat what he considers the children’s true ill — poor academic performance in inadequate schools.

“I don’t have a whole lot of choice,” said Dr. Anderson, a pediatrician for many poor families in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta. “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”

Dr. Anderson is one of the more outspoken proponents of an idea that is gaining interest among some physicians. They are prescribing stimulants to struggling students in schools starved of extra money — not to treat A.D.H.D., necessarily, but to boost their academic performance.

It is not yet clear whether Dr. Anderson is representative of a widening trend. But some experts note that as wealthy students abuse stimulants to raise already-good grades in colleges and high schools, the medications are being used on low-income elementary school children with faltering grades and parents eager to see them succeed.

“We as a society have been unwilling to invest in very effective nonpharmaceutical interventions for these children and their families,” said Dr. Ramesh Raghavan, a child mental-health services researcher at Washington University in St. Louis and an expert in prescription drug use among low-income children. “We are effectively forcing local community psychiatrists to use the only tool at their disposal, which is psychotropic medications.”

Dr. Nancy Rappaport, a child psychiatrist in Cambridge, Mass., who works primarily with lower-income children and their schools, added: “We are seeing this more and more. We are using a chemical straitjacket instead of doing things that are just as important to also do, sometimes more.”

Dr. Anderson’s instinct, he said, is that of a “social justice thinker” who is “evening the scales a little bit.” He said that the children he sees with academic problems are essentially “mismatched with their environment” — square pegs chafing the round holes of public education. Because their families can rarely afford behavior-based therapies like tutoring and family counseling, he said, medication becomes the most reliable and pragmatic way to redirect the student toward success.

“People who are getting A’s and B’s, I won’t give it to them,” he said. For some parents the pills provide great relief. Jacqueline Williams said she can’t thank Dr. Anderson enough for diagnosing A.D.H.D. in her children — Eric, 15; Chekiara, 14; and Shamya, 11 — and prescribing Concerta, a long-acting stimulant, for them all. She said each was having trouble listening to instructions and concentrating on schoolwork.

“My kids don’t want to take it, but I told them, ‘These are your grades when you’re taking it, this is when you don’t,’ and they understood,” Ms. Williams said, noting thatMedicaid covers almost every penny of her doctor and prescription costs.

Some experts see little harm in a responsible physician using A.D.H.D. medications to help a struggling student. Others — even among the many like Dr. Rappaport who praise the use of stimulants as treatment for classic A.D.H.D. — fear that doctors are exposing children to unwarranted physical and psychological risks. Reported side effects of the drugs have included growth suppression, increased blood pressure and, in rare cases, psychotic episodes.

The disorder, which is characterized by severe inattention and impulsivity, is an increasingly common psychiatric diagnosis among American youth: about 9.5 percent of Americans ages 4 to 17 were judged to have it in 2007, or about 5.4 million children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The reported prevalence of the disorder has risen steadily for more than a decade, with some doctors gratified by its widening recognition but others fearful that the diagnosis, and the drugs to treat it, are handed out too loosely and at the exclusion of nonpharmaceutical therapies.

The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies these medications as Schedule II Controlled Substances because they are particularly addictive. Long-term effects of extended use are not well understood, said many medical experts. Some of them worry that children can become dependent on the medication well into adulthood, long after any A.D.H.D. symptoms can dissipate.

According to guidelines published last year by the American Academy of Pediatrics, physicians should use one of several behavior rating scales, some of which feature dozens of categories, to make sure that a child not only fits criteria for A.D.H.D., but also has no related condition like dyslexia or oppositional defiant disorder, in which intense anger is directed toward authority figures. However, a 2010 study in the Journal of Attention Disorders suggested that at least 20 percent of doctors said they did not follow this protocol when making their A.D.H.D. diagnoses, with many of them following personal instinct.

On the Rocafort family’s kitchen shelf in Ball Ground, Ga., next to the peanut butter and chicken broth, sits a wire basket brimming with bottles of the children’s medications, prescribed by Dr. Anderson: Adderall for Alexis, 12; and Ethan, 9; Risperdal (an antipsychotic for mood stabilization) for Quintn and Perry, both 11; and Clonidine (a sleep aid to counteract the other medications) for all four, taken nightly.

Quintn began taking Adderall for A.D.H.D. about five years ago, when his disruptive school behavior led to calls home and in-school suspensions. He immediately settled down and became a more earnest, attentive student — a little bit more like Perry, who also took Adderall for his A.D.H.D.

When puberty’s chemical maelstrom began at about 10, though, Quintn got into fights at school because, he said, other children were insulting his mother. The problem was, they were not; Quintn was seeing people and hearing voices that were not there, a rare but recognized side effect of Adderall. After Quintn admitted to being suicidal, Dr. Anderson prescribed a week in a local psychiatric hospital, and a switch to Risperdal.

While telling this story, the Rocaforts called Quintn into the kitchen and asked him to describe why he had been given Adderall.

“To help me focus on my school work, my homework, listening to Mom and Dad, and not doing what I used to do to my teachers, to make them mad,” he said. He described the week in the hospital and the effects of Risperdal: “If I don’t take my medicine I’d be having attitudes. I’d be disrespecting my parents. I wouldn’t be like this.”

Despite Quintn’s experience with Adderall, the Rocaforts decided to use it with their 12-year-old daughter, Alexis, and 9-year-old son, Ethan. These children don’t have A.D.H.D., their parents said. The Adderall is merely to help their grades, and because Alexis was, in her father’s words, “a little blah.”

”We’ve seen both sides of the spectrum: we’ve seen positive, we’ve seen negative,” the father, Rocky Rocafort, said. Acknowledging that Alexis’s use of Adderall is “cosmetic,” he added, “If they’re feeling positive, happy, socializing more, and it’s helping them, why wouldn’t you? Why not?”

Dr. William Graf, a pediatrician and child neurologist who serves many poor families in New Haven, said that a family should be able to choose for itself whether Adderall can benefit its non-A.D.H.D. child, and that a physician can ethically prescribe a trial as long as side effects are closely monitored. He expressed concern, however, that the rising use of stimulants in this manner can threaten what he called “the authenticity of development.”

“These children are still in the developmental phase, and we still don’t know how these drugs biologically affect the developing brain,” he said. “There’s an obligation for parents, doctors and teachers to respect the authenticity issue, and I’m not sure that’s always happening.”

Dr. Anderson said that every child he treats with A.D.H.D. medication has met qualifications. But he also railed against those criteria, saying they were codified only to “make something completely subjective look objective.” He added that teacher reports almost invariably come back as citing the behaviors that would warrant a diagnosis, a decision he called more economic than medical.

“The school said if they had other ideas they would,” Dr. Anderson said. “But the other ideas cost money and resources compared to meds.”

Dr. Anderson cited William G. Hasty Elementary School here in Canton as one school he deals with often. Izell McGruder, the school’s principal, did not respond to several messages seeking comment.

Several educators contacted for this article considered the subject of A.D.H.D. so controversial — the diagnosis was misused at times, they said, but for many children it is a serious learning disability — that they declined to comment. The superintendent of one major school district in California, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted that diagnosis rates of A.D.H.D. have risen as sharply as school funding has declined.

“It’s scary to think that this is what we’ve come to; how not funding public education to meet the needs of all kids has led to this,” said the superintendent, referring to the use of stimulants in children without classic A.D.H.D. “I don’t know, but it could be happening right here. Maybe not as knowingly, but it could be a consequence of a doctor who sees a kid failing in overcrowded classes with 42 other kids and the frustrated parents asking what they can do. The doctor says, ‘Maybe it’s A.D.H.D., let’s give this a try.’ ”

When told that the Rocaforts insist that their two children on Adderall do not have A.D.H.D. and never did, Dr. Anderson said he was surprised. He consulted their charts and found the parent questionnaire. Every category, which assessed the severity of behaviors associated with A.D.H.D., received a five out of five except one, which was a four.

“This is my whole angst about the thing,” Dr. Anderson said. “We put a label on something that isn’t binary — you have it or you don’t. We won’t just say that there is a student who has problems in school, problems at home, and probably, according to the doctor with agreement of the parents, will try medical treatment.”

He added, “We might not know the long-term effects, but we do know the short-term costs of school failure, which are real. I am looking to the individual person and where they are right now. I am the doctor for the patient, not for society.

Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/09/health/attention-disorder-or-not-children-prescribed-pills-to-help-in-school.html?pagewanted=all&pagewanted=print

The Energetic Brain…a great reference for ADHD

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, ADHD stimulant treatment, Medication, Neuropsychology, Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology, School Psychology on Sunday, 7 October 2012 at 09:27

everything you ever wanted to know about adhd. a wonderful reference!

http://www.amazon.com/The-Energetic-Brain-Understanding-ebook/dp/B006RDCF0M/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1349616011&sr=1-1&keywords=the+energetic+brain

FDA approves liquid, extended-release ADHD medication

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, ADHD stimulant treatment, Medication, Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology on Sunday, 7 October 2012 at 07:14

FDA Approves Liquid, Extended-Release ADHD Med

Caroline Cassels

October 1, 2012 — The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a once-daily liquid medication for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

In a news release, drug manufacturer NextWave Pharmaceuticals announced FDA approval of its drug Qullivant XR (methylphenidate hydrochloride), the first once-daily, oral-suspension medication for the treatment of ADHD.

According to the company, the central nervous system stimulant is the first extended-release, once-daily liquid ADHD medication on the market. It helps control ADHD symptoms within 45 minutes of administration and lasts for 12 hours.

“The approval of Quillivant XR fills a void that has long existed in the treatment of ADHD. We routinely see the struggles of patients who have difficulty swallowing pills or capsules. Having the option of a once-daily liquid will help alleviate some of these issues while still providing the proven efficacy of methylphenidate for 12 hours after dosing,” said Ann Childress, MD, president of the Center for Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Las Vegas, Nevada, who was also an investigator in a clinical trial that tested the drug.

The company notes that the drug’s efficacy was evaluated in a randomized, double-blind , placebo-controlled, crossover, multicenter classroom study of 45 children with ADHD.

Quillivant XR is a federally controlled substance (CII) because of its potential for abuse and/or dependence.

The drug is expected to be available in pharmacies in January 2013.

Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/771878?src=nl_topic

 

Psychostimulant treatment and the developing cortex

In ADHD, ADHD child/adolescent, ADHD stimulant treatment, Medication, Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology on Wednesday, 3 October 2012 at 06:19

a brief report on stimulant treatment in children and adolescents.  2008 publication but still useful information.

Psychostimulant Treatment and the Developing Cortex in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Shaw P, Sharp WS, Morrison M, et al
Am J Psychiatry. 2008 Sep 15.

http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/583251

This study examined whether stimulants for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were associated with differences in cerebral cortex development.

Study Design: Neuroanatomic MRI was used to assess the change in cortical thickness in 43 youths with ADHD; mean age at the first scan was 12.5 years, mean age at the second scan was 16.4 years. Of the 43 adolescents, 24 were treated with stimulants between scans while 19 were not treated between scans. Investigators included an additional comparison to a large sample of (n=294) of typically developing control youths.

Results: The rate of change of the cortical thickness in the right motor strip, the left middle/inferior frontal gyrus, and the right parieto-occipital region was different between the adolescents taking stimulants as compared with those not taking stimulants. Specifically, the study found more rapid cortical thinning in the group of patients not taking stimulants (mean cortical thinning of 0.16 mm/year [SD=0.17], compared with 0.03 mm/year [SD=0.11] in the group taking stimulants). Furthermore, comparison against the controls without ADHD showed that cortical thinning in the group not taking stimulants was in excess of age-appropriate rates.

Conclusion: These findings show no evidence that stimulant treatment is associated with slowing of overall growth of the cortical mantle.

Commentary: This is a remarkable paper from the Child Psychiatry Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland, and the Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The authors suggest that psychostimulant-induced improvements in cognition and action might foster cortical development within the normative range, as an example of activity-dependent neuroplasticity. The authors note that a randomized trial would be a better scientific design, but in the interim, this study shows the importance of comparisons with controls/normative data.

the state of anxiety in the united states

In ADHD, Anxiety, Medication, Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology on Wednesday, 3 October 2012 at 05:51

Some Facts about Anxiety in the United States:

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population).

Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment.

Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third of the country’s $148 billion total mental health bill, according to “The Economic Burden of Anxiety Disorders,” a study commissioned by ADAA (The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry,60(7), July 1999).

More than $22.84 billion of those costs are associated with the repeated use of health care services; people with anxietydisorders seek relief for symptoms that mimic physical illnesses.

People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.

 

Facts: Anxiety and Stress-Related Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

GAD affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population.
Women are twice as likely to be affected as men.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
2.2 million, 1.0%
Equally common among men and women.
The median age of onset is 19, with 25 percent of cases occurring by age 14. One-third of affected adults first experienced symptoms in childhood.

  • Hoarding is the compulsive purchasing, acquiring, searching, and saving of items that have little or no value.

Panic Disorder

6 million, 2.7%
Women are twice as likely to be affected as men.
Very high comorbidity rate with major depression.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
7.7 million, 3.5%
Women are more likely to be affected than men.
Rape is the most likely trigger of PTSD: 65% of men and 45.9% of women who are raped will develop the disorder.
Childhood sexual abuse is a strong predictor of lifetime likelihood for developing PTSD.

Social Anxiety Disorder
15 million, 6.8%
Equally common among men and women, typically beginning around age 13.
According to a 2007 ADAA survey, 36% of people with social anxiety disorder report experiencing symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help.

Specific Phobias
19 million, 8.7%
Women are twice as likely to be affected as men.

Related Illnesses 

Many people with an anxiety disorder also have a co-occurring disorder or physical illness, which can make their symptoms worse and recovery more difficult. It’s essential to be treated for both disorders.

Children 

Anxiety disorders affect one in eight children. Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse.

Anxiety disorders also often co-occur with other disorders such as depression, eating disorders, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Older Adults

Anxiety is as common among older adults as among the young. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most common anxiety disorder among older adults, though anxiety disorders in this population are frequently associated with traumatic events such as a fall or acute illness. Read the best way to treat anxiety disorders in older adults.

Treatment Options

Anxiety disorders are treatable, and the vast majority of people with an anxiety disorder can be helped with professional care. Several standard approaches have proved effective:

Retrieved from: http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

 

The United States of Anxiety

By Ben Michaelis, Ph.D.

America is in an acute state of anxiety. For those of you who were concerned during the debt ceiling discussions, have been fearful during the stock market gyrations and are now panicking about your job, family and future, take a moment, take a deep breath and imagine that there is a better way. Because there is.

As human beings, our minds are prewired to react more strongly to negative information than positive information. This makes sense from an evolutionary psychology perspective: Negative information may mean threats to our survival, such as predators who may try to eat us. This is the reason that when a stranger gives you a nasty look it stays on your mind longer than when someone flashes a smile at you. This natural bias towards focusing on the negative becomes even more pronounced during times of uncertainty. When we don’t know where to turn, anything that seems potentially dangerous grabs our attention and activates our primitive survival instincts.

The fight or flight system is quite useful when you are facing a specific physical threat, but it is not helpful when you are facing general uncertainty, which is really what this is about. In fact, our survival instincts actually steer us in the wrong direction and can quickly make the situation worse. What is needed during periods of uncertainty is not this primitive instinct toward biological survival, which drove investors to “sell, sell sell!” on Monday, but rather the capacity to use our higher brain centers to imagine a different future.

As a clinical psychologist, I don’t treat nations, I treat people. In my work, I often see patients who experience intense, runaway anxiety (not unlike what happened on Monday) at just the time of a triumph or when things are about to turn for the better. Giving into the fear of the moment is both psychologically unpleasant and socially contagious. When other people see, or sense, that you are afraid, they focus on their instinctive reaction to seeing your fear and begin to experience terror themselves. Societal fear can quickly create an environment where your fears can come true simply by people behaving as though they are true. Regardless of the headlines suggesting the end is nigh, try taking a beat and doing something different: Imagine that all is not lost. Consider the ways that the future might actually be better than the present or the past.

When I am with a patient who is in the grip of such a panic, I suggest following these three steps in order to shift from fear to faith:

  1. Recognize: If you can recognize that you are in a state of panic, you are, frankly, more than halfway to stopping it. If you are not sure if you are in a state of panic, ask yourself this question: “Can I choose to stop these unpleasant, spiraling thoughts if I want to?” If the answer to the question is, “Yes,” then go ahead and do it. If the answer is “No,” then you have just realized that you are panicking.
  2. Refocus: Focus your energy on your five senses. Ask yourself: “What am I smelling?” “What am I seeing?” “What am I hearing?” “What are the tastes in my mouth?” and “How is my body feeling?” If you intentionally bring your focus away from the scenarios of Armageddon (not the Bruce Willis version) that you are cooking up and unto your present circumstances, you will break the chain of runaway thinking, because you can’t do both simultaneously. Even if you only get a brief respite any break, no matter how small, is enough to change the direction of your anxiety and help you take an active approach to problem solving.
  3. Re-imagine: Take your doomsday scenario and re-write it so that you are not stuck with the same old script. Write a Hollywood ending if you like. If you are scared that you will lose all of your money in the stock market, imagine the opposite. Picture the market changing direction, and that you will have more than you will ever need. If you have been out of work and are afraid that you will never get another job, imagine that you will be inundated with job offers. I am not suggesting that by simply imagining these things that they will happen, only that by doing so you can stop the spiral of anxiety and start thinking and planning for your next steps. That shift can make all of the difference between fueling the contagion of panic and returning to a more balanced state where you can actually effect real change in your life.

Your imagination is your greatest cognitive gift. It is also our greatest national asset. The ability to imagine a different and better future is the first step toward creating one. By recognizing, refocusing and re-imagining your circumstances you will feel better in the moment and shift from fear to faith. Using your mind’s eye to envision a positive outcome can help calm you down and make better momentary decisions. Plus, you might just inspire others to do the same.

Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-michaelis-phd/americans-anxiety-stress_b_925420.html

 

are we over-medicating?

In ADHD, Anxiety, Brain imaging, Brain studies, Medication, Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology on Wednesday, 3 October 2012 at 05:39

this is one author’s opinion on anxiety and “the little blue pill.”  while anxiety is a VERY REAL and often debilitating condition for some, many wonder if anxiety medications (such as xanax and valium) are too readily prescribed and taken.  in my work as a school psychologist, i am asked constantly if i think adhd is over-diagnosed and children are over-medicated.  my answer is based in my belief that most psychological conditions are brain-based (this is becoming especially evident in light of new ways to examine the brain, i.e. genomic medicine, advanced brain imaging, etc.).  not treating those who have a REAL diagnosis has deleterious effects, but do i think that there are many physicians who will prescribe medications without possibly doing a full evaluation?  yes, i do.  but, i also think there are some VERY savvy parents who know what to say to get their kids medication that they *think* will give them an advantage over others.  while stimulants have a paradoxical effect on those with adhd (meaning they are stimulants but do not act as a stimulant behaviorally, i.e. not hyping kids up, but stimulating parts of the brain that are responsible for attending, focus, etc., thus appearing to calm them down), they also act as true stimulants for those that do not have a valid adhd diagnosis.  there are many stories of all-night study sessions in college and kids who use stimulants to stay awake and keep studying (i have even heard about kids who purchase stimulants just as they would marijuana or other drugs and crush it up and snort it for a cocaine-like effect).  the effect of a stimulant on someone without adhd is much like that of someone on cocaine.  they are ‘stimulated.’  so, while i believe the author has some valid points related to medication, i also believe that people who TRULY have a diagnosis of anxiety, adhd, depression, etc., do more harm than good when they do not take medication.  that is my personal opinion based on the many studies of those with treated issues versus those who do not seek treatment or were not treated until adulthood.  the differences in neuroanatomy and structural changes in the brain show that medication does work IF properly prescribed.  my personal opinion is if you think you are suffering from a brain-based disorder (adhd, anxiety, etc.), do yourself a favor and go to a PSYCHIATRIST.  while pediatricians and general practitioners are good at what they do and are knowledgeable about so many things, you wouldn’t go to an ophthalmologist for a broken leg, so why would you go to a pediatrician for a psychiatric issue?  psychiatrists’ entire business is of the mind and it is their job to keep up with the latest research and medications.  why go to anyone BUT a specialist?  once again, this is nothing more than my PERSONAL opinion.  

Valium’s Contribution to the New Normal

OPINION

By Robin Marantz Henig

IT wasn’t funny, really, but everybody laughed at the scene in the 1979 film “Starting Over” when Burt Reynolds’s character had a panic attack in the furniture department of Bloomingdale’s (something to do with terror at the prospect of buying a couch). “Does anyone have a Valium?” his brother called out as Burt hyperventilated. The punch line: Every woman in the store reached into her purse and pulled out a little vial of pills.

Nor was it surprising that all those Bloomie’s shoppers could be so helpful, since by that time Valium, which had been introduced in 1963, was the best-selling prescription drug in America, with billions of blue or yellow or white pills, each stamped with a trademark V, sold every year.

Valium was, significantly, one of the first psychoactive drugs to be used on a large scale on people who were basically fine. It has since been surpassed by other drugs, like the popular tranquilizer Xanax. But with the pharmaceutical giant Roche announcing that it will soon close the Nutley, N.J., plant where Valium and its predecessor, Librium, were developed, it’s a good time to remember how revolutionary these “minor tranquilizers” were half a century ago. These were the drugs that gave us a new way to slay our inner demons, medicating our way to a happier life.

How did Roche convince physicians that it was O.K. to offer their patients a bottled form of serenity? How did the physicians persuade their patients? And how did the company’s success in this venture shape our collective attitudes toward normal versus abnormal, stoic versus foolhardy, and the various ways available to cope with the ups and downs of daily life?

Marketing, essentially — which was first put into action with Librium, one of those evocative drug names that pharmaceutical companies invent. Librium was introduced in 1960 and promptly outsold its predecessors, the barbiturates, because it had fewer side effects. (Barbiturates were serious downers, making people sleepy and zombielike, and they were habit-forming; Marilyn Monroe died from an overdose.)

“A Whole New World … of Anxiety” read one of the early Roche ads for Librium, featuring a young woman with a pageboy hairdo holding an armload of books, wearing a short stadium coat and heading off to college. The copy made it sound as though every step in this “whole new world” called out for a tranquilizer. “The new college student may be afflicted by a sense of lost identity in a strange environment … Her newly stimulated intellectual curiosity may make her more sensitive to and apprehensive about unstable national and world conditions.”

The ad lists other sources of “anxiety” in a college student’s life — new friends, new influences, stiff competition for grades and tests of her moral fiber — that could just as easily be seen as growing pains, or as a healthy response to the turbulent world of the 1960s, when this ad appeared in The Journal of the American College Health Association. But Roche wanted doctors to believe that they were problems, not adventures, and that they warranted a prescription for Librium.

The next step was to develop something better — stronger, faster acting, less toxic. The Roche chemist who had originally stumbled upon Librium, Leo Sternbach, went back to the lab and tweaked the compound. Then he tested the drug on humans — in this case, the mothers-in-law of a few Roche executives. The executives thought that the new drug, Valium, rendered their mothers-in-law significantly less annoying.

In retrospect, Librium turned out to be a great first act, teaching Roche how to pitch a psychoactive drug to doctors of healthy patients who just needed a little something to unjangle their nerves. By the time Valium arrived, Roche was poised to dominate the field. In 1974, Americans filled nearly 60 million prescriptions for Valium.

Taking a pill to feel normal, even a pill sanctioned by the medical profession, led to a strange situation: it made people wonder what “normal” really was. What does it mean when people feel more like themselves with the drug than without it? Does the notion of “feeling like themselves” lose its meaning if they need a drug to get them there?

At the same time that Valium became famous for being in everyone’s medicine chest (or in every department store shopper’s purse), it also became famous for ruining lives. Elizabeth Taylor said she was addicted to Valium plus whiskey, Jack Daniel’s in particular. Tammy Faye Bakker said she was addicted to Valium plus nasal spray. Elvis Presley’s personal poison was Valium mixed with an assortment of other prescriptions. And Karen Ann Quinlan, the young woman languishing in a chronic vegetative state while her parents fought all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court for the right to remove her from life support, originally lapsed into a coma in 1975 from a combination of Valium and gin.

Nearly 50 years after Valium was introduced and aggressively marketed, we’ve learned its lessons well. My generation of aging baby boomers does its brain styling, by and large, with antidepressantsProzac, Wellbutrin, CelexaPaxilZoloft. And for my daughters’ generation, the millennials, the pills of choice tend to be Ritalin and Adderall, for mental focus.

But when Americans are feeling out of sorts, we are still more likely to turn to anti-anxiety drugs than to any other kind. The leading successor to Valium, Xanax, outsells every other psychiatric drug on the market (48.7 million prescriptions last year). And even Valium is still out there, the classic little-black-dress of tranquilizers. In 2011, 14.7 million prescriptions were written for the drug that first made its cultural mark as a Rolling Stones song (“Mother’s Little Helper”) back in 1966.

As Roche closes its New Jersey headquarters, it plans to open a smaller research facility in Manhattan in late 2013, part of a wave that city officials hope will turn New York into a biotech mecca. The company’s transition reminds us of a phenomenon that’s become so common we no longer even think of it as weird: the oxymoronic attainment, through using drugs to make you feel more like yourself, of an artificially induced normal.

Robin Marantz Henig is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and the co-author, with her daughter Samantha Henig, of the forthcoming “Twentysomething: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck?”

Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/30/sunday-review/valium-and-the-new-normal.html?ref=opinion&_r=0

an interesting perspective on medication…

In Medication, Psychiatry on Monday, 1 October 2012 at 17:18

while there is DEFINITELY a need for medication (imo), do some abuse it?  and, if so, isn’t that the war on drugs  we should be waging?

Fighting the Wrong War on Drugs

By Allen Frances, MD | August 29, 2012


Since Richard Nixon was president, we have been fighting a drug war we can’t possibly win. Meanwhile, we have barely begun to fight a different drug war we couldn’t possibly lose.

The losing battle is against illegal drugs. Interdiction has been as big a bust as Prohibition of alcohol(Drug information on alcohol) in the 1930s. Occasionally arresting a drug kingpin or confiscating a few million of dollars worth of contraband heroin or cocaine makes for a nice headline, but this doesn’t stop the flow.

The beneficiaries of our war on drugs have been the cartels and the narco-terrorists; the casualties are the failing states they can buy or bully. The Mexican government is fighting what amounts to an undeclared civil war against cartels armed to the teeth and flowing with money—both from north of the border. We have unwittingly created a terrific business model for the drug dealers and a disaster for the states where they deal.

That other drug war, which we couldn’t possibly lose, is against the excessive use of legal drugs that is promoted by our own pharmaceutical companies. Astounding fact: prescription drugs are now responsible for more accidental overdoses and deaths than street drugs.

Polypharmacy is rampant and uncontrolled with military personnel, the elderly, and children particularly vulnerable to its risks. Michael Jackson is just the most high–profile poster victim of this growing epidemic of legal drug abuse. The drug cocktails are sometimes prescribed by dangerous high-flying doctors, sometimes by multiple doctors who just aren’t aware of the other’s existence, and prescription drugs are also widely available for purchase on the street.

There is no one cause of this mess, and there won’t be one cure. Doctors, drug companies, patients, politicians, and our fragmented health care system are all to blame. But the elephant in the room is Big Pharma. It has hijacked the practice of medicine, using its enormous profits to unduly influence physicians, physician groups, academics, consumer advocacy groups, the Internet, the press, and the government. Misleading “disease mongering” promotional programs saturate the media with direct-to-consumer drug advertising that is illegal everywhere else in the world except New Zealand and the developing nations.

The result: a ridiculously high proportion of people have come to rely on antidepressants, antipsychotics, antianxiety agents, sleeping pills, and pain meds. Psychiatric meds are among the very top best sellers for the drug companies—over $16 billion for antipsychotics; almost $12 billion for antidepressants, and more than $7 billion for ADHD drugs. One in 5 Americans takes a psychiatric drug, 1 in 5 women is on an antidepressant.

Seventy percent of these pills are prescribed by primary care doctors with little training in their proper use, under intense pressure from drug salespeople and misled patients, after rushed 7-minute appointments and subject to no systematic auditing.

The free market in drug salesmanship has led to promiscuous drug use, needless side effects, and wasted resources—a kind of societal overdose. The government has unwittingly aided and abetted Pharma. The cash-strapped FDA is beholden to industry for funding.

And it gets worse. Big Pharma all too often also goes illegal to push even more product. The multi-billion dollar criminal and civil penalties recently levied on several different drug companies provide clear evidence of the pervasive extent of drug company wrongdoing—but have not been big enough to deter it. A billion dollars must seem like chump change—just the cost of doing business.

Pretty bleak. But if we ever had the political will to begin it, we couldn’t possibly lose a war to tame the dangerous use of legal drugs. The solutions are crystal clear and a cinch to implement—if we were really determined to solve the problem:

(1) Sharply restrict drug company marketing and lobbying. Pharma now spends almost twice as much money pushing drug sales as on research—we would have better medicines and less legal drug abuse if this were reversed.

(2) Make the punishments for marketing malfeasance much more of a deterrent to underhanded drug pushing. This could be done by levying much bigger megafines on the companies and also by holding the executives personally responsible and perhaps by reducing the period of product patent protection.

(3) Develop a computerized real-time national system to identify and prevent polypharmacy. Credit card companies can abort a suspicious $100 transaction before the fact. Why can’t we apply the same technology preemptively to prevent a patient from collecting potentially lethal pills?

(4) Closely monitor the prescribing habits of doctors to correct or eject the “Dr Feelgoods.”

(5) It would greatly improve the quality of our health care system and greatly reduce its costs if all doctors, professional associations, consumer groups, and politicians were prevented from accepting drug company funding. Do drug companies really need this much “free speech”? It makes no sense to have the FDA funded by drug companies.

What are the political prospects of my twin proposals—to begin the winable war against the overuse of legal drugs and to drop the losing war against illegal drugs?

You guessed it—zero and zero. The first will be doomed by Pharma’s political punch; the latter by the irrational victory of hope and ideology over experience.

Retrieved from: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/blog/frances/content/article/10168/2099456

ADHD medication and cardiovascular risk

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, ADHD stimulant treatment, Medication, Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology on Wednesday, 26 September 2012 at 07:20

i believe many people may hold some misconceptions related to stimulant medication in treating ADHD.  in fact, i have a personal story related to that.  a friend of mine needed to go to the emergency room for a cut that needed stitches.  while in triage, the nurse took her blood pressure and it was quite elevated.  the nurse questioned her about her bp and asked if she was diagnosed with high blood pressure (this person is an avid athlete and has never had issues with high bp).  once the nurse saw on her intake form that she took 10mg. of adderall a day for adult ADHD, she told my friend that that medicine was “toxic” and the she needed to stop it “right away” and go to her doctor immediately for a cardiac assessment.  she repeatedly stated that the adderall she was taking was going to do her harm and she MUST stop taking it right away!  my friend was somewhat startled at the nurse’s vehement opinions regarding the adderall.  what i do know is that, when i am hurt or in a tense situation (i.e. the emergency room and in pain), my blood pressure might temporarily go up.  i also know that i DO NOT have high blood pressure.  no mention of being anxious or in pain was made in relation to my friend’s high bp at that time.  on a side note, once my friend was out of the ER and we had gone to the pharmacy to get a prescription, she took it again and it was well within the normal range, showing she was just anxious/worried/in pain and her higher bp was a residual effect of that.  but…this does illustrate that there are times people believe that something is fact because of popular opinion, their own biases, etc., even when the literature may not support their belief/s.  so, in light of that, i wanted to share a post on stimulant medication and cardiovascular risk.  as you can see, it is not as clear-cut as our opinionated nurse thought it was.

ADHD Medications in Adults Yield Mixed Cardiovascular Risk Results

Deborah Brauser & Hien T. Nghiem, MD

In the United States, roughly 1.5 million adults use medications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These medications include amphetamines, atomoxetine, and methylphenidate. ADHD medications are known to increase both blood pressure (< 5 mm Hg) and heart rate (< 7 bpm). Given these effects, there are concerns regarding serious cardiovascular events related to taking ADHD medications.

The aim of this study by Hennessy and colleagues was to determine whether use of methylphenidate in adults is associated with elevated rates of serious cardiovascular events compared with rates in nonusers.

Study Synopsis and Perspective

Although adults prescribed the ADHD medication methylphenidate may be at increased risk for adverse cardiovascular events, this association may not be causal, new research suggests.

In a cohort study of almost 220,000 individuals, new users of methylphenidate had almost twice the risk for sudden death or ventricular arrhythmia than age-matched control participants had. They also had a significantly higher risk for all-cause death.

However, the medication dosage “was inversely associated with risk,” meaning it lacked a dose-response relationship, report the investigators.

“We were surprised by the risk findings. But the inverse associations leads us to be somewhat skeptical,” coinvestigator Sean Hennessy, PharmD, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology and pharmacology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, told Medscape Medical News.

“Ordinarily, if a drug increases the risk of adverse outcomes, that increase is going to be dose-dependent. We didn’t see that, and in fact, found an inverse relationship for death and other outcomes,” he explained.

Dr. Hennessy said that this could be due to “frail, elderly patients who have other things going on” and who are prescribed low-dose methylphenidate.

“Maybe baseline differences in those patients that aren’t captured in the medical claims data are responsible for the elevated risk of adverse outcomes we were seeing rather than it being a causal effect of the methylphenidate itself,” he opined.

“So I would say to wait for these findings to be replicated and clarified in other research before they are acted on clinically.”

The study is published in the February issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Mixed Findings

According to the investigators, methylphenidate and other ADHD medications are used by almost 1.5 million adults in the United States — even though these medications have been shown to raise blood pressure and heart rate.

“Given these effects, case reports of sudden death, stroke, and myocardial infarction have led to regulatory and public concern about the cardiovascular safety of these drugs,” write the researchers.

However, in May 2011, and reported by Medscape Medical News at that time, the same group of researchers published a study in Pediatrics that showed no increased risk for cardiovascular events in children treated with ADHD medications.

In addition, researchers from Kaiser Permanente Northern California published a study in December 2011 in the Journal of the American Medical Association that examined risks in adults younger than age 65 years who were taking methylphenidate, amphetamine, atomoxetine, or pemoline.

The combined group of ADHD medication users showed no increased risk for serious cardiovascular events, including myocardial infarction, sudden cardiac death, or stroke, compared with the group of nonusers.

For this analysis, investigators examined records from Medicaid and commercial databases, representing 19 states, for adults in a broader age range. Included were 43,999 new users of methylphenidate and 175,955 individuals who did not use methylphenidate, amphetamines, or atomoxetine (for both groups, 55.4% were women).

In each group, 67.3% of the participants were between the ages of 18 and 47 years, 23.2% were between the ages of 48 and 64 years, and 9.5% were aged 65 years or older.

Primary cardiac events assessed included sudden death or ventricular arrhythmia, myocardial infarction, stroke, and a combination of stroke/myocardial infarction. All-cause death was a secondary measure.

Unexpected Results

Results showed that the adjusted hazard ratio (HR) for sudden death/ventricular arrhythmia for the methylphenidate users compared with the nonusers was 1.84 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.33 – 2.55). For all-cause death, the HR was 1.74 (95% CI, 1.60 – 1.89).

Adjusted HRs for myocardial infarction and stroke (alone or in combination) were not statistically different between the 2 treatment groups.

For the participants who experienced a cardiovascular event, the median treatment dosage was 20 mg/day. No significant association was found for sudden death/ventricular arrhythmia between the patients who took more or less than 20 mg/day of methylphenidate.

“However, there were unexpected inverse associations” between high methylphenidate dosage and stroke, myocardial infarction, stroke/myocardial infarction, and all-cause death compared with low dosage, report the researchers. They add that this lack of a dose-response association discredits a causal relationship.

“Furthermore, the inverse relationships…may suggest that lower dosages were prescribed to the frailest patients, who might have had a greater risk of all-cause death and sudden death — that is, the results may have been affected by unmeasured confounding,” write the investigators.

Other limitations cited included the fact that the study was not randomized and that administrative databases do not include potential confounders such as smoking, blood pressure, substance use, and exercise use/nonuse.

Dr. Hennessy reported that the investigators also assessed cardiovascular risks in their study participants who were also taking amphetamines or atomoxetine. They will be publishing those results soon.

Findings “Generally Reassuring”

Christopher J. Kratochvil, MD, from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, writes in an accompanying editorial that this and other studies are “generally reassuring and demonstrate movement in the right direction, with systematic retrospective analyses better informing us of issues related to cardiovascular safety with ADHD pharmacotherapy.”

“While gaps persist in the methodical and comprehensive assessments of the safety of ADHD medications, these studies add valuable information to our already large repository of safety and efficacy data…and better inform the risk-benefit analysis of their use,” writes Dr. Kratochvil, who was not involved with this research.

He adds that establishing a “robust” national electronic health records system containing detailed data elements will also offer considerable help to clinicians.

These large and more accessible databases “will allow us to improve our identification and understanding of rare but serious adverse effects and better address these questions of public health significance,” he concludes.

The study was funded through a sponsored research agreement with Shire Development, Inc., and by a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health. The study authors all receive salary support from Shire through their employers. All financial disclosures for the study authors and Dr. Kratochvil are listed in the original article.

Am J Psychiatry. 2012;169:112-114;178-185. Abstract, Editorial

Study Highlights

■This study was a nonrandomized cohort study of new users of methylphenidate based on administrative data from a 5-state Medicaid database (1999-2003) and a 14-state commercial insurance database (2001-2006).

■All new methylphenidate users with at least 180 days of prior enrollment were identified.

■Users were matched on data source, state, sex, and age to as many as 4 comparison participants who did not use methylphenidate, amphetamines, or atomoxetine.

■A total of 43,999 new methylphenidate users were identified and were matched to 175,955 nonusers.

■The main outcome measures were (1) sudden death or ventricular arrhythmia; (2) stroke; (3) myocardial infarction; and (4) a composite endpoint of stroke or myocardial infarction.

■Secondary outcomes included all-cause death and nonsuicide death.

■Results demonstrated that the age-standardized incidence rate per 1000 person-years of sudden death or ventricular arrhythmia was 2.17 (95% CI, 1.63 – 2.83) in methylphenidate users and 0.98 (95% CI, 0.89 – 1.08) in nonusers, for an adjusted HR of 1.84 (95% CI, 1.33 – 2.55).

■Dosage was inversely associated with the risks for stroke, myocardial infarction, stroke/myocardial infarction, and all-cause death.

■Adjusted HRs for stroke, myocardial infarction, and the composite endpoint of stroke or myocardial infarction did not differ statistically from one another.

■For the secondary outcome of all-cause death, methylphenidate demonstrated a positive association (adjusted HR, 1.74; 95% CI, 1.60 – 1.89). Nonsuicide deaths were nearly identical.

■Limitations of this study include the potential for unmeasured confounders (ie, smoking, blood pressure, nonprescribed aspirin use, substance misuse, and level of physical activity) because the study was not randomized.

Clinical Implications

■ADHD medications raise blood pressure by less than 5 mm Hg and heart rate by less than 7 bpm.

■Although initiation of methylphenidate was associated with a 1.8-fold increase in the risk for sudden death or ventricular arrhythmia, the lack of a dose-response relationship suggests that this association may not be a causal one.

Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/759069

Drug Therapy for Autism

In Autism Spectrum Disorders, Medication, Neuropsychology, Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology on Monday, 24 September 2012 at 16:10

Autism Patients Might Benefit from Drug Therapy

By SYDNEY LUPKIN | ABC News – Wed, Sep 19, 2012 2:37 PM EDT

Researchers have found a drug that can help patients with Fragile X syndrome, the most common cause of inherited intellectual impairment (formerly known as mental retardation), stay calm in social situations by treating their anxiety.

Dr. Elizabeth Berry-Kravis and her team found that a drug called Arbaclofen reduced social avoidance and repetitive behavior in Fragile X patients, especially those with autism, by treating their anxiety. The drug increases GABA, a chemical in the brain that regulates the excitatory system in Fragile X patients, who have been known to have too little GABA to do the job otherwise, causing their excitatory systems to “signal out of control” and make them anxious.

Such patients have been known to cover their ears or run away at their own birthdays because they are overwhelmed by the attention, but one trial participant said he was able to enjoy his birthday party for the first time in his life while he was on Arbaclofen, she said.

“I feel like it’s kind of the beginning of chemotherapy when people first realized you could use chemotherapy to treat cancer patients instead of just letting them die,” said Berry-Kravis, a professor of neurology and biochemistry at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago who has studied Fragile X for more than 20 years.

She said people used to think Fragile X patients couldn’t be helped either, but she and her team have proven that by using knowledge from existing brain mechanism studies, doctors can select medications to target specific problems in Fragile X patients’ brains.

Fragile X syndrome is a change in the FMRI gene, which makes a protein necessary for brain growth, and studies indicate it causes autism in up to one-third of patients diagnosed with it. Unlike Fragile X syndrome, which is genetic, autism is a behavioral diagnosis characterized by an inability to relate to other people or read social cues. Autism and Fragile X are linked, but not mutually exclusive. A core symptom of both is social withdrawal.

Sixty-three patients with Fragile X participated in Berry-Kravis’s placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial from December 2008 through March 2010. Of those, the patients with autism showed the biggest improvements in social behavior, Berry-Kravis said.

To psychologist Lori Warner, who directs the HOPE Center at Beaumont Children’s Hospital, the study is exciting because when her autistic patients are anxious, they often have a harder time learning the social cues they can’t read on their own.

“Reducing anxiety opens up your brain to be able to take in what’s happening in an environment and be able to learn from and understand social cues because you’re no longer frightened of the situation,” Warner said.

She works mostly with autism patients, and although some do have Fragile X as well, most do not.

Fragile X affects one in 4,000 men and one in 6,000 to 8,000 women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although Arbaclofen worked best on autistic Fragile X patients, further studies will be needed to prove whether it can help all autism patients, not just those with autism caused by Fragile X.

“There’s a difference between one person’s brain and another in how it’s set up,” Berry-Vargis said. “This is not a magic cure. It’s a step.”

Retrieved from: http://gma.yahoo.com/autism-patients-might-benefit-drug-therapy-183744169–abc-news-health.html

Tailoring Antidepressant Treatment

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, Anxiety, Medication, Psychiatry, Psychopharmacology on Monday, 24 September 2012 at 07:13

Tailoring Antidepressant Treatment: Factors to Individualize Medication Selection Thomas L. Schwartz, MD; Daniel Uderitz, MD

In the realm of psychopharmacology, we often declare medications within their respective therapeutic classes as being equal. This is a byproduct related to the way medications achieve their indications for treatment for specific psychiatric disorders. In the case of antidepressant treatments, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicates that if a study can obtain a majority of patients improved by 50% compared with placebo, then a drug may become an antidepressant treatment. There are no standards for differentiating antidepressant treatments beyond this. Clinicians often note that all antidepressant treatments are not created equal, especially when applied to clinical situations and patients who are often complex and have comorbid conditions. The goal of this article is to sort out regimens that may convey certain advantages during the treatment in an individualized manner. This involves conceptualizing and utilizing monotherapies, combination therapies, and adjunctive treatments.

Monotherapies

The first-line treatment of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) should start with an aggressive monotherapy. This occurs in clinical practice and is supported by many guidelines and reviews. The various antidepressant medications have unique properties that can be used to individualize treatments. Most psychiatrists can easily name their “favorite” antidepressant to use in certain situations. This is sometimes based on a simple bias, but often has evidence to back up clinical practice. Let us start with the mechanistically simple and move toward more complex ways to think about these medications. This includes thinking about FDA approvals, available guidelines, comorbidities, side effects, and more complex pharmacodynamic receptor-based neuropsychiatry.

A patient rarely comes to a psychiatrist without having a combination of psychiatric symptoms. Typically, clinicians screen patients and find that they often meet criteria for more than 1 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition-Text Revision (DSM IV-TR) criteria.[1] At a minimum, the individual patient raises suspicion for various problem areas, even if they do not meet criteria for a specific disorder. In reviewing FDA guidelines, clinicians may quickly make simple decisions regarding treatment regimens that are more individualized based on these comorbidities and predominant symptoms. Of note, additional FDA approval or lack of approval for various indications does not necessarily mean that evidence does not support efficacy for other disorders. For example, the manufacturer may not have pursued FDA approval for other indications, or may have decided not to support randomized controlled trials to study another indication.

Single Indication

The first group of antidepressants approved by the FDA for the single indication of MDD include amitriptyline, citalopram, desipramine, desvenlafaxine, mirtazipine, nortriptyline, protriptyline, trazodone, trimipramine, vilazodone, and the monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) class.[2-4] Clinicians should know that these medications have only the 1 indication, and this clearly supports their use in MDD. However, many practitioners recognize that there are multiple other factors that allow these medications to be used in an off-label manner for various individuals. In a pure model, these antidepressants have regulatory data suggesting use only in patients with MDD but, as discussed, a lack of approval for other indications does not necessarily indicate a lack of supportive data or lack of efficacy.

Multiple Indications

Unlike those listed above, many antidepressants have other labeled or approved indications. These span a variety of comorbidities including anxiety disorders, seasonal affective disorder, sleep disorders, pain disorders, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, bulimia nervosa, and other miscellaneous indications. Given this, and assuming MDD is often complicated by comorbidity, let us evaluate a few comorbidities where data-driven decisions may help in individualizing treatments in patients who are depressed and simultaneously experience other psychiatric conditions.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Patients with posttraumatic stress disorder often have comorbid depression. Only 2 antidepressants, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) sertraline and paroxetine, are approved for this indication.[2] Multiple other medications have been recognized as effective off-label treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder, however; these include amitriptyline, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, imipramine, and venlafaxine.[5-7] If a patient presents with MDD and posttraumatic stress disorder, these antidepressants may be considered if necessary to achieve efficacy for both conditions.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Several medications are approved for obsessive-compulsive disorder, including the tricyclic antidepressant clomipramine, and the SSRIs fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, and sertraline.[2] Venlafaxine, a serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI),[8] and the SSRI citalopram have shown some promise in obsessive compulsive disorder,[9] but have not yet received that indication from the FDA.

Panic Disorder

The SSRIs fluoxetine, paroxetine, and sertraline are approved for treatment of panic disorder, as is the SNRI venlafaxine.[2,10] Other antidepressants with an evidence base for use that are not approved include the TCAs clomipramine and imipramine, and the SSRI fluvoxamine.[6]

Anxiety Disorders

Social anxiety disorder. The SSRIs paroxetine and sertraline, and the SNRI, venlafaxine extended-release (ER) have been approved for the treatment of social anxiety disorder.[2] The SSRI fluoxetine is sometimes used for treatment of social anxiety disorder.

Generalized anxiety disorder. Four antidepressants have been indicated for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. These include the SSRI escitalopram and paroxetine, and the SNRI duloxetine and venlafaxine ER.[2,11]

Insomnia

Although sleep difficulties are a nearly universal symptom of depression, few antidepressants have an official indication for insomnia. Doxepin, a TCA, is the sole antidepressant labeled with this indication, when it is used at subtherapeutic antidepressant doses of 3 to 6 mg per day.[12] However, clinicians often use sedating antidepressants to induce sleep in those patients with MDD and insomnia (Schwartz TL. Novel hypnotics: moving beyond positive allosteric modulation of the GABA-A receptor. Manuscript submitted). These medications include the TCA amitriptyline, the tetracyclic mirtazapine, and the serotonin modulator trazodone.

Pain Syndromes

Duloxetine, an SNRI, is the only antidepressant medication that has official indications for treatment of pain syndromes.[2,10] These include chronic musculoskeletal pain, neuropathic pain (diabetic neuropathy in particular), and fibromyalgia. Alternatively, many of the TCAs, as well as other SNRI, have been studied for the treatment of pain syndromes, primarily involving neuropathic or chronic pain conditions.[13,14] Amitriptyline also is often used for migraine headaches. Unfortunately these other medications have not received official indications for these psychosomatic comorbidities.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Some antidepressants have shown promise for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, but not enough to warrant a specific FDA indication. Nonetheless, these medications are used for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, particularly in patients with substance use disorder. Bupropion, desipramine, imipramine, nortriptyline, and venlafaxine have some evidence base to support their use.[15-19]

Other Comorbid Considerations

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder. The SSRI fluoxetine, paroxetine, and sertraline have been FDA approved for the treatment of premenstrual dysphoric disorder.[2]

Smoking cessation. Many patients who receive mental health treatment are also addicted to nicotine. Bupropion SR has received the indication for nicotine addiction.[2] Nortriptyline also has been shown to be helpful for smoking cessation efforts, but has not received an official indication.[20]

Miscellaneous. Bupropion XL carries a specific indication for prophylaxis of seasonal affective disorder and often is used off-label for the treatment of bipolar depression.[19,21,22] Fluoxetine is indicated for treatment of bulimia nervosa and sometimes is used for the treatment of Raynaud’ phenomenon.[2,19,23] Venlafaxine and paroxetine have data supporting use for the treatment of vasomotor hot flashes.[24,25] Finally, imipramine may be used in the treatment of enuresis.[26]

Take-Home Point

Clinicians should be aware of FDA approvals and the evidence base supporting the use of antidepressants in patients with MDD, who are often complex and suffering with other medical and psychiatric comorbidities. Choosing agents with indications that match the patient’s comorbid symptoms is one way to tailor and individualize treatment to each patient.

Beyond the simplistic but labor-intensive role of delineating specific comorbidities and focusing on antidepressant indications, is the imperative to develop a more complex individualized antidepressant treatment plan. If it were as simple as following the FDA labels and simple algorithms to make decisions, then much psychiatric education could be eliminated. A review of antidepressant mechanisms of action will allow us to further distinguish these medications, thus allowing more individualized treatments for MDD.

SSRI Class

The first and most commonly prescribed class of antidepressant is the SSRI. At the most basic understanding, these medications increase serotonin in the synapse and function ultimately to down-regulate serotonin receptors. However, as the science behind these medications is further explored, there is much more to these agents. When looking at the SSRI class as a whole, and in comparison with other antidepressant classes, a few general characteristics can be considered. The SSRI medications as a group are thought of as having fewer side effects than most other classes of antidepressants, and particularly the older classes of drugs. The most common and clinically relevant consideration for these medications is the development of gastrointestinal upset, sexual side effects, and weight gain.[27] The following delineates some of the subtle differences for each medication in this class and describes the benefits and drawbacks of treatment with each to help refine treatment selection.

Citalopram. Citalopram is one of the most widely used antidepressants today, and has a few properties that make it desirable. The medication has a long half-life of 23-45 hours, second only to fluoxetine,[2] and it is typically well tolerated in medically ill patients and the elderly.[19,28] Citalopram has weak H1 receptor antihistamine properties, and these properties provide anxiolytic and positively sedating effects.[27] Citalopram is made up of 2 mirror image enantiomers, each of which have different properties [27] that may lead to some inconsistencies in the property or function of the medication at lower doses. Citalopram is a weak inhibitor of CYP 2D6, with minimal drug-drug interactions.[30] Finally, recent FDA warnings have changed prescribing practices of this medication because of potential QTc prolongation at daily doses higher than 40 mg[29]; daily doses of 60 mg should no longer be used.

Benefits.Citalopram is a well-tolerated medication with mild antihistamine effects that may help with insomnia or mild anxieties. The longer half-life results in less withdrawal or discontinuation side effects.[31]

Drawbacks.Structural enantiomers result in this medication having less predictable effects at lower doses, and higher doses are contrary to FDA recommendations related to the potential for QTc prolongation. It has fewer FDA approvals for comorbid psychiatric disorders than other drugs in the SSRI class; as discussed earlier, this may simply reflect the manufacturer’s failure to seek approval for other indications.

Escitalopram. In contrast to the parent drug citalopram, escitalopram is separated and includes only the left enantiomer.[27] This results in the removal of much of the antihistamine and CYP 2D6 inhibitory properties.[19,27] It also results in more effective and predictable dose responses of the medication at the lower doses.

Benefits.Escitalopram has the benefit of better tolerability with less drug interactions. It may have less sedating effects, and is approved for generalized anxiety disorder as well as MDD.[2]

Drawbacks.Currently this is the only SSRI still on patent, and is thus more expensive than other, generic SSRI.

Fluoxetine. The first member of the SSRI class, fluoxetine has a few characteristics that make it desirable. Fluoxetine has mild serotonin 2C receptor antagonistic actions. This may result in the disinhibition of dopamine and norepinephrine release to the prefrontal cortex, which likely helps to improve concentration, energy, and executive functioning.[19,27] Furthermore, the serotonin 2C effects of this medication may contribute to the initial anorexic and ongoing anti-bulimic effects of this medication.[27] More recently, the effects of fluoxetine on the serotonin system have been combined with those of olanzapine, a second-generation antipsychotic, for the treatment of depression in patients with bipolar disorder and for treatment resistant unipolar depression.[19,27] Fluoxetine also may be a mild norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, particularly at higher doses.

Fluoxetine significantly affects CYP 2D6 and 3A4 inhibition, and thus is highly likely to interact with other medications.[19,27] Finally, this medication has the longest half-life of the SSRIs, at 2-3 days, with an active metabolite that exists for 2 weeks.[2]

Benefits.Fluoxetine has action at the serotonin 2C receptor, and may affect norepinephrine levels at higher doses. The drug has the longest half-life among the SSRI, making it least likely to cause withdrawal. It is available as a once weekly dosing formulation and is approved for MDD, panic disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and bulimia nervosa.[2] It also has positive combination effects with the second generation antipsychotic olanzapine, and a combination formulation has been approved by the FDA for treating treatment-resistant and bipolar depression.*[19]

Drawbacks.The medication is likely to be activating in some patients, making it a more difficult option for those with insomnia, agitation, and intense anxiety.[19,27] Slower dose titration is warranted in these cases. Fluoxetine has a high degree of CYP 2D6 inhibition, resulting in significant drug-drug interactions.[19]

*Multiple trials of other second generation antipsychotics combined with various antidepressants including SSRI and SNRI have shown antidepressant efficacy for these combinations in patients with refractory depression.[32]

Paroxetine. The action of paroxetine is more complex than the previously described SSRI medications. In addition to serotonin reuptake inhibition, paroxetine functions with mild anticholinergic properties, mild norepinephrine reuptake inhibition (NRI), inhibition of nitric oxide synthetase, and potent inhibition of CYP 2D6 (similar to fluoxetine).[19,27] It has anticholinergic and antihistaminergic properties that may lend to its being calming and sedating, but also may increase dry mouth, blurred vision, and short term memory problems.[19,27] The NRI effects of the medication may contribute to clinical effectiveness. The effects on nitric oxide synthetase may cause sexual dysfunction.

Benefits.In addition to major depression, paroxetine is approved for various anxiety disorders, with possible calming/sedating effects. It is available in immediate- and slow-release preparations.

Drawbacks.Paroxetine has the potential for anticholinergic side effects[31] Its shorter half-life may result in more and more severe withdrawal side effects than other SSRI; paroxetine is also most strongly associated with weight changes, compared with other SSRI.[2] This medication also has a higher drug-drug interaction probability.

Sertraline. This SSRI may have dual mechanisms that distinguish it from other SSRIs. At higher doses, it acts as both a dopamine transporter inhibitor and a sigma 1 receptor binder.[27] The effects of dopamine transporter inhibition may result in improved energy, motivation, and concentration. Sigma 1 implications are not yet well understood, but some hypothetical benefit is attributed to their mild anxiolytic effects in psychotic and delusional depressions.[27]

Benefits.Sertraline is approved for MDD, many anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.[2] This medication has very little CYP 2D6 inhibition and therefore few drug-drug interactions.[19] It has a moderate half-life and thus the possibility of some withdrawal symptoms.

Drawbacks.Sertraline can be activating in patients with anxiety disorders, which may require slowly titrating doses; it is often associated with gastrointestinal distress.

Take-Home Point

The SSRI class is considered a homogeneous class of antidepressants because all are held to the same standard of passing FDA regulatory norms. However, a pharmacodynamic look into their wider mechanisms of action may suggest that each drug is actually different in ways that may foster unique advantages or disadvantages for any given patient. This type of finding would not be apparent in a typical 300-subject regulatory trial, but is often noted in clinical practice, where the sample size comprises the one unique subject that the clinician is treating.

SNRI Class

The next most common class of medications used for the treatment of MDD is the SNRI. This group of medications has a dual mechanism of action, increasing synaptic norepinephrine as well as serotonin.[19,27] In addition to increasing norepinephrine and serotonin levels throughout the brain, these medications may also boost dopamine in the prefrontal cortex, resulting in additional benefits.[27] In the prefrontal cortex, no dopamine transporters are there to recycle dopamine out of the synapse. Typically norepinephrine transporters remove dopamine in these areas, but with the inhibition of these, the dopamine effect in the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex is more robust.[27] This activation in the brain has been correlated with antidepressant effects.

On the other hand, as the additional norepinephrine boost is added to the brain, it is not contained there. Norepinephrine effects are seen throughout the body, including the spinal cord, peripheral autonomic nervous system, heart, and bladder.[19,27] In the spinal cord this may reduce pain, but may also lead to side effects such as tremor, motor activation, and increased blood pressure and heart rate.[27] Also, these effects may allow a pseudo-anticholinergic effect resulting in such things as dry mouth, constipation, and urinary retention. However, these norepinephrine-related side effects do not rival those of the tricyclic antidepressant class.[31] Generally, the SNRIs are well tolerated, but the subtle increase in side effect burden needs to be considered.

Venlafaxine. Venlafaxine was the first SNRI and was initially approved in an immediate-release preparation. This medication is a substrate of CYP 2D6, and is converted into desvenlafaxine, an SNRI that was developed subsequently.[19,27] Unfortunately, the absorption of immediate-release venlafaxine is rapid, affording it remarkable side effects; this has been mitigated with an extended-release formulation that appears to be much better tolerated in practice. The medication also has a unique character, causing a varying ratio of serotonin to norepinephrine effects.[19,27] At low doses, there are fewer NRI properties (and more SRI properties) available and only at higher doses do the norepinephrine transporter inhibition properties increase more robustly.

Benefits.Compared with the SSRI, this medication has effects at both serotonin and norepinephrine receptors leading to its antidepressant effectiveness. The medication is very effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders, with multiple approved uses, likely comparable to sertraline and paroxetine.[2]

Drawbacks.The norepinephrine effects of the medication are much more robust only at higher doses and must be titrated. The medication has a short half-life resulting in many withdrawal side effects. There may be higher rates of nausea and dry mouth in comparison to some other antidepressants.[31] This medication may cause hypertension in some patients, and thus, blood pressure should be monitored.[19]

Desvenlafaxine. Desvenlafaxine is the active metabolite of venlafaxine,[19] and has the added benefit of a greater effect on norepinephrine transporter inhibition than its precursor at the initial dose levels. However, the effects on norepinephrine are less than those on serotonin.[27] Because it is the active metabolite of venlafaxine, it is less subjected to the genetic and drug-induced differences of CYP 2D6, which allows more consistent plasma levels of the medication.[27] It may be one of the “cleanest” antidepressant medications, given its extremely low vulnerability to cytochrome P450 metabolism, renal excretion, and low protein binding. The role of desvenlafaxine in the regulation of vasomotor symptoms (night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, and related depression) in perimenopausal women is being investigated.[27]

Benefits.Although similar to extended-release venlafaxine, desvenlafaxine has a more balanced ratio of norepinephrine/serotonin properties, and it has one of the most favorable drug-drug interaction profiles.

Drawbacks.This medication has a short half-life and significant withdrawal side effects.[31]

Duloxetine. Duloxetine is unique among the SNRI class of drugs because, in addition to MDD, it is approved for treating a variety of pain syndromes.[2] This is related to the SNRI effect on the descending spinal norepinephrine pathways that reduce afferent pain fiber activity.[27] The increase in norepinephrine activity in spinal areas results in less thalamic input to the sensory cortex and therefore less perceived pain. The norepinephrine-facilitating effects in the prefrontal cortex also may show some benefit in treatment of cognitive symptoms prevalent in geriatric depression.[27]. Compared with venlafaxine, duloxetine has a lower incidence of treatment-related hypertension and milder withdrawal reactions. It is approved for MDD, generalized anxiety disorder, musculoskeletal pain, neuropathic pain, and fibromyalgia-related pain.[2]

Benefits.One of the only antidepressants approved for management of pain syndromes, duloxetine also has a more balanced norepinephrine to serotonin ratio at its initial doses.[28]

Drawbacks.Duloxetine is a mild to moderate CYP 2D6 inhibitor, which results in some drug-drug interactions.[19] In addition, it should not be used in alcoholic patients or those with renal and/or liver impairment.

Take-Home Point

The SNRI class is considered a homogeneous class of antidepressants because all are held to the same standard of passing FDA regulatory norms. As with the SSRI, a pharmacodynamic look into their wider mechanisms of action suggests that each drug is actually different in ways that may foster unique advantages or disadvantages for any given patient. This is clear when one considers the diverse FDA approvals for each and different potencies related to facilitating distinct ratios of serotonin to norepinephrine transporter inhibition. Again, this type of finding would not be apparent in a typical 300-subject regulatory trial, but is often noted in clinical practice, where the sample size comprises the one unique subject that the clinician is treating.

TCA Class

This class is one of the oldest and still highly utilized classes of antidepressant in the history of psychopharmacology, and includes amitriptyline, imipramine, clomipramine, desipramine, trimipramine, and nortriptyline. The TCAs are often overlooked because of their relatively high level of side effects when compared with other classes of antidepressant, and because of high lethality in overdose. The TCAs have significant effects on the norepinephrine, serotonin, and to some extent dopamine activity in the brain.[19,27] The higher incidence of side effects are likely mediated through blockade of anticholinergic receptors (M1/M3), histamine receptors (H1), alpha 1 adrenergic receptors, and voltage-sensitive sodium channels.[19,27] Histamine blockade causes sedation and weight gain. Muscarinic blockade causes dry mouth, blurred vision, urinary retention, and constipation. Alpha 1 blockade causes orthostatic hypotension and dizziness. Sodium channel blockade affects the heart significantly, resulting in arrhythmias and conduction changes at higher doses.[27] This latter side effect results in significant risk of successful suicide with overdose, and renders TCAs difficult to use in medically comorbid patients.

Benefits.Overall, TCAs are very effective antidepressants. Indeed, early studies comparing TCA with SSRI medications found significantly higher remission rates with TCA than with SSRI in depressed, endogenous and inpatients samples.[33-36] However, in less severely depressed patients, there is not conclusive evidence of benefit of either class of antidepressant over another. Off-label, the use of TCAs in the treatment of pain, enuresis, and insomnia is widespread.[19] Availability of plasma level monitoring helps to guarantee therapeutic trials while minimizing toxicity.

Drawbacks.The significant adverse event profile causes an array of side effects that are often poorly tolerated and lead to medication noncompliance. Because of cardiac side effects, TCAs carry significant risk of death with overdose.

MAOI Class

This class of antidepressants has its own unique mechanism of action. MAOI has fallen into the realm of rarely used antidepressants in modern day psychopharmacology. This is related to the risks and side effects inherent to MAOI use. On the other hand, MAOI are among the most clinically powerful classes of antidepressant treatments. This class interferes with MAO enzyme subtypes A and B. The inhibition of these enzymes results in higher levels of serotonin and norepinephrine due to reduced catabolism of these neurotransmitters.[27] Moreover, by specifically lowering MAO-B activity, dopamine levels in the brain increase as well. Thus, all 3 monoamine neurotransmitter levels are robustly increased, which, in turn, affects a broad array of depressive symptoms.

The use of these medications may come at the cost of difficulty in using them. The most well-known drawback is that patients need to maintain a specific diet that is free of high tyramine foods, or risk the likelihood of hypertensive crisis related to the acute elevation of systemic norepinephrine, which also may result in stroke.[19,27] Foods to be avoided include tap beers, smoked meat or fish, fava beans, aged cheeses, sauerkraut, and soy. However, certain beers, wines, and cheeses are not contraindicated. These items need to be researched and discussed prior to starting a patient on the medication.

Drug-drug interactions are plentiful; combining an MAOI with other norepinephrine medications may increase blood pressure, and combining with a serotonin-based medication can cause serotonin syndrome.[19,27] Patients are also advised to avoid decongestants, stimulants, antidepressants, certain opioids, and appetite suppressants.[19,27]

The MAOI tranylcypromine may act similarly to an amphetamine in the frontal cortex, affording it some additional benefits.[27] Likewise, selegiline also involves breakdown into an amphetamine metabolite. Selegiline is more often used for Parkinson disease than depression.

Benefits.MAOIs are recognized as among the most potent of antidepressants in monotherapy, with effects on serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. This class of antidepressant is often used for the patient who is refractory to other antidepressant trials.

Drawbacks.The MAOIs are associated with risks of hypertensive crisis and serotonin syndrome. There is a need to maintain a tyramine free diet except when using the low dose transdermal selegiline. Because of potential for drug-drug interactions, careful, ongoing monitoring of all additional medications (including over-the-counter medications) is essential.

Miscellaneous Antidepressants

Several other well-known antidepressant medications do not fit discretely into the 4 main antidepressant classes. Each has unique mechanisms that will be discussed similarly below.

Bupropion. This norepinephrine-dopamine receptor inhibitor (NDRI) medication is of particular use in a few subsets of patients. As the class name indicates, bupropion facilitates effects on norepinephrine and dopamine, blocking norepinephrine transporter and dopamine transporter activity at a moderate level, likely in the frontal cortex.[27] The unique properties of bupropion as an antidepressant may be related to its lack of serotonin activity. It is approved for smoking cessation and is used off-label to reduce craving for substances of abuse. Clinicians contend that the dopamine actions of this medication help to improve the loss of positive affect in MDD. Thus, it effectively increases joy, interest, pleasure, energy, enthusiasm, alertness, and self-confidence.[27] The norepinephrine and dopamine facilitation helps patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder as well.[19]

Several cases of psychosis and paranoia have been reported in patients taking bupropion, likely related to the dopamine effects of the drug.[37] Limited data suggest that this medication, like all antidepressants, may activate depressed patients with bipolar disorder, causing manic episodes. However, it is widely accepted that bupropion and the SSRI class may be less likely to activate mania compared with the TCA class of medications. Because it does not act on serotonin, this is one of the few antidepressants that does not cause sexual side effects or weight gain.[19,27] The medication is uniquely approved for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder.[2]

Benefits.Bupropion is indicated for the treatment of MDD, seasonal affective disorder, and nicotine dependence. It has very low sexual and weight gain side effect liability.

Drawbacks.There is limited serotonin activity with bupropion and less evidence for the treatment of anxiety. Bupropion lowers the seizure threshold in patients predisposed to these events (including patients with eating disorders and those with epilepsy).

Trazodone. Trazodone is a serotonin antagonist/reuptake inhibitor (SARI). It blocks serotonin 2A and 2C receptors and also acts as a mild serotonin reuptake inhibitor.[19,27] This medication typically is used at lower doses because of its properties as a strong antihistamine (H1) and alpha-1 adrenergic blocking medication. The blockade of these receptors causes significant sedation, which may help with insomnia, but may cause excessive somnolence and dizziness in the daytime. The blockade of serotonin also may explain trazodone’s properties as a hypnotic, providing more efficient sleep.[27] Although higher doses of this medication provide excellent benefit related to the synergistic effects of blocking serotonin 2A and 2C and by acting as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, this medication is not typically given in full divided doses because of excessive side effects.[19,27] A new slow-release preparation has been approved to allow a better tolerated, full dose range.

Benefits.Trazodone is often called a sedating antidepressant. It helps insomnia, improves sleep efficiency, and has its action even at low doses. Sexual side effects and activating side effects are low.[19,27]

Drawbacks. Significant sedation may limit its use.

Mirtazapine. This medication is also considered to be sedating and is typically either avoided or sought because of its side effect profile. Side effects include sedation/hypnotic effects and appetite stimulation, but not sexual side effects. The lack of sexual side effects is again related to serotonin in that mirtazapine is not a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, but in this case acts as a serotonin 2A/2C receptor antagonist.[19,27] The blockade of these receptors may result in more dopamine and norepinephrine release in the prefrontal cortex. The histamine blockade (H1) results in sedation, anxiolytic/hypnotic effects, and weight gain.[19,27] Mirtazapine also acts as a 5HT3 receptor antagonist, resulting in reduction of gastrointestinal problems.[19,27] The primary mechanism of antidepressant action is through alpha 2/norepinephrine receptor antagonism. Through this antagonism, inhibition of norepinephrine is disinhibited through auto receptor blockade. This allows downstream effects on several pathways and may result in overall release of serotonin and norepinephrine. This effect can often be combined with an SNRI to obtain synergistic effects.[27]

Benefits.Mirtazapine has many unique mechanisms of actions that make it beneficial in particular populations. It lacks sexual side effects, reduces gastrointestinal upset, and is not activating. The sedating qualities of this medication are typically used to the medication’s and the patient’s benefit.

Drawbacks.Mirtazapine has significant weight gain/appetite stimulation effects, which could lead to metabolic disorders.

This review is both practical and factual. Clinicians ideally should be aware of regulatory approvals and appropriate use of them in certain patient populations. When used this way, clinicians may expect results comparable to those noted in the evidence base of regulatory trials. However, those who treat patients understand that not all are identical to those enrolled in research trials. What follows will provide some practical clinical approaches when responses do not meet expectations.

As noted, only one third of patients will fully remit on their first antidepressant trial.[38] These numbers hold true for patients who are fully treated with moderate to high dose SSRI for as long as 12 weeks. In clinical practice, patients may not even have such a rigorous dosing profile and failure rates are likely higher. What approaches should be taken when a patient is not responding to treatment?

Adherence and Dosing

First, ask and attempt to ensure adherence to the antidepressant treatment. This questioning should be nonjudgmental and empathic, as most patients will likely say they are compliant even when they are not. Oftentimes suggesting that most people tend to naturally miss a few doses and that you as the clinician are just checking up will diffuse the situation. As dosing becomes divided throughout the day and polypharmacy increases, compliance usually diminishes, making assessment for compliance and adherence to medical regimens even more important.

Tolerability

An important area to address to improve adherence to a regimen relates to side effects and antidepressant tolerability. Sometimes patients cease taking their antidepressant or fail to escalate the dose as advised when adverse effects are not well tolerated. Many mild side effects will dissipate over time and this should be discussed directly with the patient.[39] Patients should be instructed to inform prescribers of any moderate to severe side effects and the drug can then be safely stopped. Patients should also be told that there are many antidepressants, and these have different side effects.[2,39] For example, SSRI, SNRI, and NDRI may be activating, and thus cause insomnia or nervousness upon initiation of treatment. Patients may be switched to a less activating SARI or noradrenergic antagonist-selective serotonin antagonist mechanism-based product, as these tend to be less activating and more sedating.[2]

Some patients may experience drug-drug interactions depending upon their genetic make-up.[2] Switching away from hepatic inhibiting medications towards medications that are less likely to interact with other drugs may be warranted. Typical side effects of headaches, stomachaches, or even insomnia often can be treated very effectively with over the counter or prescription medications. Later onset side effects such as weight gain or sexual dysfunction may be more difficult to mitigate or treat. Open discussions with patients about these longer term risks are warranted because patients often have to stay on their antidepressants for a year or more to maintain remission and avoid a depressive relapse.[38] Because certain antidepressants may have a more, or less favorable weight or sexual side effect profile, they should be chosen based on a discussion about patient preference when possible.

Assuming adherence is adequate, the next step is to confirm that the antidepressant dose was at the moderate to high end of the approved range and has been taken for at least 4 to 6 weeks. If dosing is confirmed to be reasonable, consider a final maximization of dose or switch to a new antidepressant monotherapy.[39]

Switching Monotherapies

If it is necessary to consider switching monotherapies, no clear benefit has been attributed to any particular strategy.[38] Many experts agree, however, that a switch away from an SSRI is warranted if the fully dosed SSRI therapy has failed to improve the patient’s symptoms.[27,39] The theoretical implication is that the patient’s current depressive symptoms have been treated with aggressive serotonergic facilitation and that repeating this mechanism may not be fruitful. This suggests that, pharmacodynamically, the depression may not be entirely serotonin-based in regards to its etiology.[27,39] Given this, a cross titration on to an SNRI such as venlafaxine XR or duloxetine, a NDRI such as bupropion XL, a noradrenergic antagonist-selective serotonin antagonist such as mirtazapine, or a more aggressive serotonergic facilitating agent like a SARI such as trazodone ER or a serotonin partial agonist-reuptake inhibitor such as vilazodone theoretically may be warranted.[2]

One final concern regarding switching involves the use of generic vs brand-name drugs. The FDA ensures that the bioavailability between a brand name and its generic counterpart is approximately between 20% weaker and 20% stronger.[40,41] Most generics are highly comparable, but occasionally when a patient actually changes from one generic to another, the bioavailability could change from a 20% stronger to a 20% weaker generic drug and symptom relapse may occur. By contrast, going from a weaker to a stronger generic might actually improve depression outcomes but may also create new-onset side effects after months of stable treatment as the newer generic preparation is more potent, raising blood levels higher than previously. These types of events should be monitored and dosing adjusted as needed.

Finally, a generic drug may possess a different slow-release mechanism compared with the parent brand-name drug. Oftentimes the generic, despite being a slow-release drug itself may actually release active drug more quickly than the original brand’s slow-release technology. There may be no evidence of a clinical problem; however, some patients may develop side effects when taking the faster release preparation. In this case, the dose may need to be lowered while monitoring for relapse or a switch back to the brand-name slow-release product may be warranted.

In conclusion, this article seeks to identify treatments that match patients with MDD and their common comorbidities, as a first line approach to MDD management. Secondarily and more theoretically, patients’ MDD symptoms may be effectively treated if clinicians are aware of the neurotransmitters and receptors that each antidepressant modulates. Finally, patients may suffer issues with nonefficacy, noncompliance, and tolerability. Each patient is unique and these clinical situations may interfere with optimal depression outcomes. Each patient must be educated and given informed consent about the myriad effective antidepressant treatment options available.

Supported by an independent educational grant from Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

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Retrieved from:

Tailoring Antidepressant Treatment: Factors to Individualize Medication Selection Thomas L. Schwartz, MD; Daniel Uderitz, MD

In the realm of psychopharmacology, we often declare medications within their respective therapeutic classes as being equal. This is a byproduct related to the way medications achieve their indications for treatment for specific psychiatric disorders. In the case of antidepressant treatments, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicates that if a study can obtain a majority of patients improved by 50% compared with placebo, then a drug may become an antidepressant treatment. There are no standards for differentiating antidepressant treatments beyond this. Clinicians often note that all antidepressant treatments are not created equal, especially when applied to clinical situations and patients who are often complex and have comorbid conditions. The goal of this article is to sort out regimens that may convey certain advantages during the treatment in an individualized manner. This involves conceptualizing and utilizing monotherapies, combination therapies, and adjunctive treatments.

Monotherapies

The first-line treatment of patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) should start with an aggressive monotherapy. This occurs in clinical practice and is supported by many guidelines and reviews. The various antidepressant medications have unique properties that can be used to individualize treatments. Most psychiatrists can easily name their “favorite” antidepressant to use in certain situations. This is sometimes based on a simple bias, but often has evidence to back up clinical practice. Let us start with the mechanistically simple and move toward more complex ways to think about these medications. This includes thinking about FDA approvals, available guidelines, comorbidities, side effects, and more complex pharmacodynamic receptor-based neuropsychiatry.

A patient rarely comes to a psychiatrist without having a combination of psychiatric symptoms. Typically, clinicians screen patients and find that they often meet criteria for more than 1 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition-Text Revision (DSM IV-TR) criteria.[1] At a minimum, the individual patient raises suspicion for various problem areas, even if they do not meet criteria for a specific disorder. In reviewing FDA guidelines, clinicians may quickly make simple decisions regarding treatment regimens that are more individualized based on these comorbidities and predominant symptoms. Of note, additional FDA approval or lack of approval for various indications does not necessarily mean that evidence does not support efficacy for other disorders. For example, the manufacturer may not have pursued FDA approval for other indications, or may have decided not to support randomized controlled trials to study another indication.

Single Indication

The first group of antidepressants approved by the FDA for the single indication of MDD include amitriptyline, citalopram, desipramine, desvenlafaxine, mirtazipine, nortriptyline, protriptyline, trazodone, trimipramine, vilazodone, and the monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) class.[2-4] Clinicians should know that these medications have only the 1 indication, and this clearly supports their use in MDD. However, many practitioners recognize that there are multiple other factors that allow these medications to be used in an off-label manner for various individuals. In a pure model, these antidepressants have regulatory data suggesting use only in patients with MDD but, as discussed, a lack of approval for other indications does not necessarily indicate a lack of supportive data or lack of efficacy.

Multiple Indications

Unlike those listed above, many antidepressants have other labeled or approved indications. These span a variety of comorbidities including anxiety disorders, seasonal affective disorder, sleep disorders, pain disorders, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, bulimia nervosa, and other miscellaneous indications. Given this, and assuming MDD is often complicated by comorbidity, let us evaluate a few comorbidities where data-driven decisions may help in individualizing treatments in patients who are depressed and simultaneously experience other psychiatric conditions.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Patients with posttraumatic stress disorder often have comorbid depression. Only 2 antidepressants, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) sertraline and paroxetine, are approved for this indication.[2] Multiple other medications have been recognized as effective off-label treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder, however; these include amitriptyline, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, imipramine, and venlafaxine.[5-7] If a patient presents with MDD and posttraumatic stress disorder, these antidepressants may be considered if necessary to achieve efficacy for both conditions.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Several medications are approved for obsessive-compulsive disorder, including the tricyclic antidepressant clomipramine, and the SSRIs fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, paroxetine, and sertraline.[2] Venlafaxine, a serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI),[8] and the SSRI citalopram have shown some promise in obsessive compulsive disorder,[9] but have not yet received that indication from the FDA.

Panic Disorder

The SSRIs fluoxetine, paroxetine, and sertraline are approved for treatment of panic disorder, as is the SNRI venlafaxine.[2,10] Other antidepressants with an evidence base for use that are not approved include the TCAs clomipramine and imipramine, and the SSRI fluvoxamine.[6]

Anxiety Disorders

Social anxiety disorder. The SSRIs paroxetine and sertraline, and the SNRI, venlafaxine extended-release (ER) have been approved for the treatment of social anxiety disorder.[2] The SSRI fluoxetine is sometimes used for treatment of social anxiety disorder.

Generalized anxiety disorder. Four antidepressants have been indicated for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. These include the SSRI escitalopram and paroxetine, and the SNRI duloxetine and venlafaxine ER.[2,11]

Insomnia

Although sleep difficulties are a nearly universal symptom of depression, few antidepressants have an official indication for insomnia. Doxepin, a TCA, is the sole antidepressant labeled with this indication, when it is used at subtherapeutic antidepressant doses of 3 to 6 mg per day.[12] However, clinicians often use sedating antidepressants to induce sleep in those patients with MDD and insomnia (Schwartz TL. Novel hypnotics: moving beyond positive allosteric modulation of the GABA-A receptor. Manuscript submitted). These medications include the TCA amitriptyline, the tetracyclic mirtazapine, and the serotonin modulator trazodone.

Pain Syndromes

Duloxetine, an SNRI, is the only antidepressant medication that has official indications for treatment of pain syndromes.[2,10] These include chronic musculoskeletal pain, neuropathic pain (diabetic neuropathy in particular), and fibromyalgia. Alternatively, many of the TCAs, as well as other SNRI, have been studied for the treatment of pain syndromes, primarily involving neuropathic or chronic pain conditions.[13,14] Amitriptyline also is often used for migraine headaches. Unfortunately these other medications have not received official indications for these psychosomatic comorbidities.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Some antidepressants have shown promise for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, but not enough to warrant a specific FDA indication. Nonetheless, these medications are used for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, particularly in patients with substance use disorder. Bupropion, desipramine, imipramine, nortriptyline, and venlafaxine have some evidence base to support their use.[15-19]

Other Comorbid Considerations

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder. The SSRI fluoxetine, paroxetine, and sertraline have been FDA approved for the treatment of premenstrual dysphoric disorder.[2]

Smoking cessation. Many patients who receive mental health treatment are also addicted to nicotine. Bupropion SR has received the indication for nicotine addiction.[2] Nortriptyline also has been shown to be helpful for smoking cessation efforts, but has not received an official indication.[20]

Miscellaneous. Bupropion XL carries a specific indication for prophylaxis of seasonal affective disorder and often is used off-label for the treatment of bipolar depression.[19,21,22] Fluoxetine is indicated for treatment of bulimia nervosa and sometimes is used for the treatment of Raynaud’ phenomenon.[2,19,23] Venlafaxine and paroxetine have data supporting use for the treatment of vasomotor hot flashes.[24,25] Finally, imipramine may be used in the treatment of enuresis.[26]

Take-Home Point

Clinicians should be aware of FDA approvals and the evidence base supporting the use of antidepressants in patients with MDD, who are often complex and suffering with other medical and psychiatric comorbidities. Choosing agents with indications that match the patient’s comorbid symptoms is one way to tailor and individualize treatment to each patient.

Beyond the simplistic but labor-intensive role of delineating specific comorbidities and focusing on antidepressant indications, is the imperative to develop a more complex individualized antidepressant treatment plan. If it were as simple as following the FDA labels and simple algorithms to make decisions, then much psychiatric education could be eliminated. A review of antidepressant mechanisms of action will allow us to further distinguish these medications, thus allowing more individualized treatments for MDD.

SSRI Class

The first and most commonly prescribed class of antidepressant is the SSRI. At the most basic understanding, these medications increase serotonin in the synapse and function ultimately to down-regulate serotonin receptors. However, as the science behind these medications is further explored, there is much more to these agents. When looking at the SSRI class as a whole, and in comparison with other antidepressant classes, a few general characteristics can be considered. The SSRI medications as a group are thought of as having fewer side effects than most other classes of antidepressants, and particularly the older classes of drugs. The most common and clinically relevant consideration for these medications is the development of gastrointestinal upset, sexual side effects, and weight gain.[27] The following delineates some of the subtle differences for each medication in this class and describes the benefits and drawbacks of treatment with each to help refine treatment selection.

Citalopram. Citalopram is one of the most widely used antidepressants today, and has a few properties that make it desirable. The medication has a long half-life of 23-45 hours, second only to fluoxetine,[2] and it is typically well tolerated in medically ill patients and the elderly.[19,28] Citalopram has weak H1 receptor antihistamine properties, and these properties provide anxiolytic and positively sedating effects.[27] Citalopram is made up of 2 mirror image enantiomers, each of which have different properties [27] that may lead to some inconsistencies in the property or function of the medication at lower doses. Citalopram is a weak inhibitor of CYP 2D6, with minimal drug-drug interactions.[30] Finally, recent FDA warnings have changed prescribing practices of this medication because of potential QTc prolongation at daily doses higher than 40 mg[29]; daily doses of 60 mg should no longer be used.

Benefits.Citalopram is a well-tolerated medication with mild antihistamine effects that may help with insomnia or mild anxieties. The longer half-life results in less withdrawal or discontinuation side effects.[31]

Drawbacks.Structural enantiomers result in this medication having less predictable effects at lower doses, and higher doses are contrary to FDA recommendations related to the potential for QTc prolongation. It has fewer FDA approvals for comorbid psychiatric disorders than other drugs in the SSRI class; as discussed earlier, this may simply reflect the manufacturer’s failure to seek approval for other indications.

Escitalopram. In contrast to the parent drug citalopram, escitalopram is separated and includes only the left enantiomer.[27] This results in the removal of much of the antihistamine and CYP 2D6 inhibitory properties.[19,27] It also results in more effective and predictable dose responses of the medication at the lower doses.

Benefits.Escitalopram has the benefit of better tolerability with less drug interactions. It may have less sedating effects, and is approved for generalized anxiety disorder as well as MDD.[2]

Drawbacks.Currently this is the only SSRI still on patent, and is thus more expensive than other, generic SSRI.

Fluoxetine. The first member of the SSRI class, fluoxetine has a few characteristics that make it desirable. Fluoxetine has mild serotonin 2C receptor antagonistic actions. This may result in the disinhibition of dopamine and norepinephrine release to the prefrontal cortex, which likely helps to improve concentration, energy, and executive functioning.[19,27] Furthermore, the serotonin 2C effects of this medication may contribute to the initial anorexic and ongoing anti-bulimic effects of this medication.[27] More recently, the effects of fluoxetine on the serotonin system have been combined with those of olanzapine, a second-generation antipsychotic, for the treatment of depression in patients with bipolar disorder and for treatment resistant unipolar depression.[19,27] Fluoxetine also may be a mild norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, particularly at higher doses.

Fluoxetine significantly affects CYP 2D6 and 3A4 inhibition, and thus is highly likely to interact with other medications.[19,27] Finally, this medication has the longest half-life of the SSRIs, at 2-3 days, with an active metabolite that exists for 2 weeks.[2]

Benefits.Fluoxetine has action at the serotonin 2C receptor, and may affect norepinephrine levels at higher doses. The drug has the longest half-life among the SSRI, making it least likely to cause withdrawal. It is available as a once weekly dosing formulation and is approved for MDD, panic disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and bulimia nervosa.[2] It also has positive combination effects with the second generation antipsychotic olanzapine, and a combination formulation has been approved by the FDA for treating treatment-resistant and bipolar depression.*[19]

Drawbacks.The medication is likely to be activating in some patients, making it a more difficult option for those with insomnia, agitation, and intense anxiety.[19,27] Slower dose titration is warranted in these cases. Fluoxetine has a high degree of CYP 2D6 inhibition, resulting in significant drug-drug interactions.[19]

*Multiple trials of other second generation antipsychotics combined with various antidepressants including SSRI and SNRI have shown antidepressant efficacy for these combinations in patients with refractory depression.[32]

Paroxetine. The action of paroxetine is more complex than the previously described SSRI medications. In addition to serotonin reuptake inhibition, paroxetine functions with mild anticholinergic properties, mild norepinephrine reuptake inhibition (NRI), inhibition of nitric oxide synthetase, and potent inhibition of CYP 2D6 (similar to fluoxetine).[19,27] It has anticholinergic and antihistaminergic properties that may lend to its being calming and sedating, but also may increase dry mouth, blurred vision, and short term memory problems.[19,27] The NRI effects of the medication may contribute to clinical effectiveness. The effects on nitric oxide synthetase may cause sexual dysfunction.

Benefits.In addition to major depression, paroxetine is approved for various anxiety disorders, with possible calming/sedating effects. It is available in immediate- and slow-release preparations.

Drawbacks.Paroxetine has the potential for anticholinergic side effects[31] Its shorter half-life may result in more and more severe withdrawal side effects than other SSRI; paroxetine is also most strongly associated with weight changes, compared with other SSRI.[2] This medication also has a higher drug-drug interaction probability.

Sertraline. This SSRI may have dual mechanisms that distinguish it from other SSRIs. At higher doses, it acts as both a dopamine transporter inhibitor and a sigma 1 receptor binder.[27] The effects of dopamine transporter inhibition may result in improved energy, motivation, and concentration. Sigma 1 implications are not yet well understood, but some hypothetical benefit is attributed to their mild anxiolytic effects in psychotic and delusional depressions.[27]

Benefits.Sertraline is approved for MDD, many anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.[2] This medication has very little CYP 2D6 inhibition and therefore few drug-drug interactions.[19] It has a moderate half-life and thus the possibility of some withdrawal symptoms.

Drawbacks.Sertraline can be activating in patients with anxiety disorders, which may require slowly titrating doses; it is often associated with gastrointestinal distress.

Take-Home Point

The SSRI class is considered a homogeneous class of antidepressants because all are held to the same standard of passing FDA regulatory norms. However, a pharmacodynamic look into their wider mechanisms of action may suggest that each drug is actually different in ways that may foster unique advantages or disadvantages for any given patient. This type of finding would not be apparent in a typical 300-subject regulatory trial, but is often noted in clinical practice, where the sample size comprises the one unique subject that the clinician is treating.

SNRI Class

The next most common class of medications used for the treatment of MDD is the SNRI. This group of medications has a dual mechanism of action, increasing synaptic norepinephrine as well as serotonin.[19,27] In addition to increasing norepinephrine and serotonin levels throughout the brain, these medications may also boost dopamine in the prefrontal cortex, resulting in additional benefits.[27] In the prefrontal cortex, no dopamine transporters are there to recycle dopamine out of the synapse. Typically norepinephrine transporters remove dopamine in these areas, but with the inhibition of these, the dopamine effect in the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex is more robust.[27] This activation in the brain has been correlated with antidepressant effects.

On the other hand, as the additional norepinephrine boost is added to the brain, it is not contained there. Norepinephrine effects are seen throughout the body, including the spinal cord, peripheral autonomic nervous system, heart, and bladder.[19,27] In the spinal cord this may reduce pain, but may also lead to side effects such as tremor, motor activation, and increased blood pressure and heart rate.[27] Also, these effects may allow a pseudo-anticholinergic effect resulting in such things as dry mouth, constipation, and urinary retention. However, these norepinephrine-related side effects do not rival those of the tricyclic antidepressant class.[31] Generally, the SNRIs are well tolerated, but the subtle increase in side effect burden needs to be considered.

Venlafaxine. Venlafaxine was the first SNRI and was initially approved in an immediate-release preparation. This medication is a substrate of CYP 2D6, and is converted into desvenlafaxine, an SNRI that was developed subsequently.[19,27] Unfortunately, the absorption of immediate-release venlafaxine is rapid, affording it remarkable side effects; this has been mitigated with an extended-release formulation that appears to be much better tolerated in practice. The medication also has a unique character, causing a varying ratio of serotonin to norepinephrine effects.[19,27] At low doses, there are fewer NRI properties (and more SRI properties) available and only at higher doses do the norepinephrine transporter inhibition properties increase more robustly.

Benefits.Compared with the SSRI, this medication has effects at both serotonin and norepinephrine receptors leading to its antidepressant effectiveness. The medication is very effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders, with multiple approved uses, likely comparable to sertraline and paroxetine.[2]

Drawbacks.The norepinephrine effects of the medication are much more robust only at higher doses and must be titrated. The medication has a short half-life resulting in many withdrawal side effects. There may be higher rates of nausea and dry mouth in comparison to some other antidepressants.[31] This medication may cause hypertension in some patients, and thus, blood pressure should be monitored.[19]

Desvenlafaxine. Desvenlafaxine is the active metabolite of venlafaxine,[19] and has the added benefit of a greater effect on norepinephrine transporter inhibition than its precursor at the initial dose levels. However, the effects on norepinephrine are less than those on serotonin.[27] Because it is the active metabolite of venlafaxine, it is less subjected to the genetic and drug-induced differences of CYP 2D6, which allows more consistent plasma levels of the medication.[27] It may be one of the “cleanest” antidepressant medications, given its extremely low vulnerability to cytochrome P450 metabolism, renal excretion, and low protein binding. The role of desvenlafaxine in the regulation of vasomotor symptoms (night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, and related depression) in perimenopausal women is being investigated.[27]

Benefits.Although similar to extended-release venlafaxine, desvenlafaxine has a more balanced ratio of norepinephrine/serotonin properties, and it has one of the most favorable drug-drug interaction profiles.

Drawbacks.This medication has a short half-life and significant withdrawal side effects.[31]

Duloxetine. Duloxetine is unique among the SNRI class of drugs because, in addition to MDD, it is approved for treating a variety of pain syndromes.[2] This is related to the SNRI effect on the descending spinal norepinephrine pathways that reduce afferent pain fiber activity.[27] The increase in norepinephrine activity in spinal areas results in less thalamic input to the sensory cortex and therefore less perceived pain. The norepinephrine-facilitating effects in the prefrontal cortex also may show some benefit in treatment of cognitive symptoms prevalent in geriatric depression.[27]. Compared with venlafaxine, duloxetine has a lower incidence of treatment-related hypertension and milder withdrawal reactions. It is approved for MDD, generalized anxiety disorder, musculoskeletal pain, neuropathic pain, and fibromyalgia-related pain.[2]

Benefits.One of the only antidepressants approved for management of pain syndromes, duloxetine also has a more balanced norepinephrine to serotonin ratio at its initial doses.[28]

Drawbacks.Duloxetine is a mild to moderate CYP 2D6 inhibitor, which results in some drug-drug interactions.[19] In addition, it should not be used in alcoholic patients or those with renal and/or liver impairment.

Take-Home Point

The SNRI class is considered a homogeneous class of antidepressants because all are held to the same standard of passing FDA regulatory norms. As with the SSRI, a pharmacodynamic look into their wider mechanisms of action suggests that each drug is actually different in ways that may foster unique advantages or disadvantages for any given patient. This is clear when one considers the diverse FDA approvals for each and different potencies related to facilitating distinct ratios of serotonin to norepinephrine transporter inhibition. Again, this type of finding would not be apparent in a typical 300-subject regulatory trial, but is often noted in clinical practice, where the sample size comprises the one unique subject that the clinician is treating.

TCA Class

This class is one of the oldest and still highly utilized classes of antidepressant in the history of psychopharmacology, and includes amitriptyline, imipramine, clomipramine, desipramine, trimipramine, and nortriptyline. The TCAs are often overlooked because of their relatively high level of side effects when compared with other classes of antidepressant, and because of high lethality in overdose. The TCAs have significant effects on the norepinephrine, serotonin, and to some extent dopamine activity in the brain.[19,27] The higher incidence of side effects are likely mediated through blockade of anticholinergic receptors (M1/M3), histamine receptors (H1), alpha 1 adrenergic receptors, and voltage-sensitive sodium channels.[19,27] Histamine blockade causes sedation and weight gain. Muscarinic blockade causes dry mouth, blurred vision, urinary retention, and constipation. Alpha 1 blockade causes orthostatic hypotension and dizziness. Sodium channel blockade affects the heart significantly, resulting in arrhythmias and conduction changes at higher doses.[27] This latter side effect results in significant risk of successful suicide with overdose, and renders TCAs difficult to use in medically comorbid patients.

Benefits.Overall, TCAs are very effective antidepressants. Indeed, early studies comparing TCA with SSRI medications found significantly higher remission rates with TCA than with SSRI in depressed, endogenous and inpatients samples.[33-36] However, in less severely depressed patients, there is not conclusive evidence of benefit of either class of antidepressant over another. Off-label, the use of TCAs in the treatment of pain, enuresis, and insomnia is widespread.[19] Availability of plasma level monitoring helps to guarantee therapeutic trials while minimizing toxicity.

Drawbacks.The significant adverse event profile causes an array of side effects that are often poorly tolerated and lead to medication noncompliance. Because of cardiac side effects, TCAs carry significant risk of death with overdose.

MAOI Class

This class of antidepressants has its own unique mechanism of action. MAOI has fallen into the realm of rarely used antidepressants in modern day psychopharmacology. This is related to the risks and side effects inherent to MAOI use. On the other hand, MAOI are among the most clinically powerful classes of antidepressant treatments. This class interferes with MAO enzyme subtypes A and B. The inhibition of these enzymes results in higher levels of serotonin and norepinephrine due to reduced catabolism of these neurotransmitters.[27] Moreover, by specifically lowering MAO-B activity, dopamine levels in the brain increase as well. Thus, all 3 monoamine neurotransmitter levels are robustly increased, which, in turn, affects a broad array of depressive symptoms.

The use of these medications may come at the cost of difficulty in using them. The most well-known drawback is that patients need to maintain a specific diet that is free of high tyramine foods, or risk the likelihood of hypertensive crisis related to the acute elevation of systemic norepinephrine, which also may result in stroke.[19,27] Foods to be avoided include tap beers, smoked meat or fish, fava beans, aged cheeses, sauerkraut, and soy. However, certain beers, wines, and cheeses are not contraindicated. These items need to be researched and discussed prior to starting a patient on the medication.

Drug-drug interactions are plentiful; combining an MAOI with other norepinephrine medications may increase blood pressure, and combining with a serotonin-based medication can cause serotonin syndrome.[19,27] Patients are also advised to avoid decongestants, stimulants, antidepressants, certain opioids, and appetite suppressants.[19,27]

The MAOI tranylcypromine may act similarly to an amphetamine in the frontal cortex, affording it some additional benefits.[27] Likewise, selegiline also involves breakdown into an amphetamine metabolite. Selegiline is more often used for Parkinson disease than depression.

Benefits.MAOIs are recognized as among the most potent of antidepressants in monotherapy, with effects on serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. This class of antidepressant is often used for the patient who is refractory to other antidepressant trials.

Drawbacks.The MAOIs are associated with risks of hypertensive crisis and serotonin syndrome. There is a need to maintain a tyramine free diet except when using the low dose transdermal selegiline. Because of potential for drug-drug interactions, careful, ongoing monitoring of all additional medications (including over-the-counter medications) is essential.

Miscellaneous Antidepressants

Several other well-known antidepressant medications do not fit discretely into the 4 main antidepressant classes. Each has unique mechanisms that will be discussed similarly below.

Bupropion. This norepinephrine-dopamine receptor inhibitor (NDRI) medication is of particular use in a few subsets of patients. As the class name indicates, bupropion facilitates effects on norepinephrine and dopamine, blocking norepinephrine transporter and dopamine transporter activity at a moderate level, likely in the frontal cortex.[27] The unique properties of bupropion as an antidepressant may be related to its lack of serotonin activity. It is approved for smoking cessation and is used off-label to reduce craving for substances of abuse. Clinicians contend that the dopamine actions of this medication help to improve the loss of positive affect in MDD. Thus, it effectively increases joy, interest, pleasure, energy, enthusiasm, alertness, and self-confidence.[27] The norepinephrine and dopamine facilitation helps patients with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder as well.[19]

Several cases of psychosis and paranoia have been reported in patients taking bupropion, likely related to the dopamine effects of the drug.[37] Limited data suggest that this medication, like all antidepressants, may activate depressed patients with bipolar disorder, causing manic episodes. However, it is widely accepted that bupropion and the SSRI class may be less likely to activate mania compared with the TCA class of medications. Because it does not act on serotonin, this is one of the few antidepressants that does not cause sexual side effects or weight gain.[19,27] The medication is uniquely approved for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder.[2]

Benefits.Bupropion is indicated for the treatment of MDD, seasonal affective disorder, and nicotine dependence. It has very low sexual and weight gain side effect liability.

Drawbacks.There is limited serotonin activity with bupropion and less evidence for the treatment of anxiety. Bupropion lowers the seizure threshold in patients predisposed to these events (including patients with eating disorders and those with epilepsy).

Trazodone. Trazodone is a serotonin antagonist/reuptake inhibitor (SARI). It blocks serotonin 2A and 2C receptors and also acts as a mild serotonin reuptake inhibitor.[19,27] This medication typically is used at lower doses because of its properties as a strong antihistamine (H1) and alpha-1 adrenergic blocking medication. The blockade of these receptors causes significant sedation, which may help with insomnia, but may cause excessive somnolence and dizziness in the daytime. The blockade of serotonin also may explain trazodone’s properties as a hypnotic, providing more efficient sleep.[27] Although higher doses of this medication provide excellent benefit related to the synergistic effects of blocking serotonin 2A and 2C and by acting as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, this medication is not typically given in full divided doses because of excessive side effects.[19,27] A new slow-release preparation has been approved to allow a better tolerated, full dose range.

Benefits.Trazodone is often called a sedating antidepressant. It helps insomnia, improves sleep efficiency, and has its action even at low doses. Sexual side effects and activating side effects are low.[19,27]

Drawbacks. Significant sedation may limit its use.

Mirtazapine. This medication is also considered to be sedating and is typically either avoided or sought because of its side effect profile. Side effects include sedation/hypnotic effects and appetite stimulation, but not sexual side effects. The lack of sexual side effects is again related to serotonin in that mirtazapine is not a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, but in this case acts as a serotonin 2A/2C receptor antagonist.[19,27] The blockade of these receptors may result in more dopamine and norepinephrine release in the prefrontal cortex. The histamine blockade (H1) results in sedation, anxiolytic/hypnotic effects, and weight gain.[19,27] Mirtazapine also acts as a 5HT3 receptor antagonist, resulting in reduction of gastrointestinal problems.[19,27] The primary mechanism of antidepressant action is through alpha 2/norepinephrine receptor antagonism. Through this antagonism, inhibition of norepinephrine is disinhibited through auto receptor blockade. This allows downstream effects on several pathways and may result in overall release of serotonin and norepinephrine. This effect can often be combined with an SNRI to obtain synergistic effects.[27]

Benefits.Mirtazapine has many unique mechanisms of actions that make it beneficial in particular populations. It lacks sexual side effects, reduces gastrointestinal upset, and is not activating. The sedating qualities of this medication are typically used to the medication’s and the patient’s benefit.

Drawbacks.Mirtazapine has significant weight gain/appetite stimulation effects, which could lead to metabolic disorders.

This review is both practical and factual. Clinicians ideally should be aware of regulatory approvals and appropriate use of them in certain patient populations. When used this way, clinicians may expect results comparable to those noted in the evidence base of regulatory trials. However, those who treat patients understand that not all are identical to those enrolled in research trials. What follows will provide some practical clinical approaches when responses do not meet expectations.

As noted, only one third of patients will fully remit on their first antidepressant trial.[38] These numbers hold true for patients who are fully treated with moderate to high dose SSRI for as long as 12 weeks. In clinical practice, patients may not even have such a rigorous dosing profile and failure rates are likely higher. What approaches should be taken when a patient is not responding to treatment?

Adherence and Dosing

First, ask and attempt to ensure adherence to the antidepressant treatment. This questioning should be nonjudgmental and empathic, as most patients will likely say they are compliant even when they are not. Oftentimes suggesting that most people tend to naturally miss a few doses and that you as the clinician are just checking up will diffuse the situation. As dosing becomes divided throughout the day and polypharmacy increases, compliance usually diminishes, making assessment for compliance and adherence to medical regimens even more important.

Tolerability

An important area to address to improve adherence to a regimen relates to side effects and antidepressant tolerability. Sometimes patients cease taking their antidepressant or fail to escalate the dose as advised when adverse effects are not well tolerated. Many mild side effects will dissipate over time and this should be discussed directly with the patient.[39] Patients should be instructed to inform prescribers of any moderate to severe side effects and the drug can then be safely stopped. Patients should also be told that there are many antidepressants, and these have different side effects.[2,39] For example, SSRI, SNRI, and NDRI may be activating, and thus cause insomnia or nervousness upon initiation of treatment. Patients may be switched to a less activating SARI or noradrenergic antagonist-selective serotonin antagonist mechanism-based product, as these tend to be less activating and more sedating.[2]

Some patients may experience drug-drug interactions depending upon their genetic make-up.[2] Switching away from hepatic inhibiting medications towards medications that are less likely to interact with other drugs may be warranted. Typical side effects of headaches, stomachaches, or even insomnia often can be treated very effectively with over the counter or prescription medications. Later onset side effects such as weight gain or sexual dysfunction may be more difficult to mitigate or treat. Open discussions with patients about these longer term risks are warranted because patients often have to stay on their antidepressants for a year or more to maintain remission and avoid a depressive relapse.[38] Because certain antidepressants may have a more, or less favorable weight or sexual side effect profile, they should be chosen based on a discussion about patient preference when possible.

Assuming adherence is adequate, the next step is to confirm that the antidepressant dose was at the moderate to high end of the approved range and has been taken for at least 4 to 6 weeks. If dosing is confirmed to be reasonable, consider a final maximization of dose or switch to a new antidepressant monotherapy.[39]

Switching Monotherapies

If it is necessary to consider switching monotherapies, no clear benefit has been attributed to any particular strategy.[38] Many experts agree, however, that a switch away from an SSRI is warranted if the fully dosed SSRI therapy has failed to improve the patient’s symptoms.[27,39] The theoretical implication is that the patient’s current depressive symptoms have been treated with aggressive serotonergic facilitation and that repeating this mechanism may not be fruitful. This suggests that, pharmacodynamically, the depression may not be entirely serotonin-based in regards to its etiology.[27,39] Given this, a cross titration on to an SNRI such as venlafaxine XR or duloxetine, a NDRI such as bupropion XL, a noradrenergic antagonist-selective serotonin antagonist such as mirtazapine, or a more aggressive serotonergic facilitating agent like a SARI such as trazodone ER or a serotonin partial agonist-reuptake inhibitor such as vilazodone theoretically may be warranted.[2]

One final concern regarding switching involves the use of generic vs brand-name drugs. The FDA ensures that the bioavailability between a brand name and its generic counterpart is approximately between 20% weaker and 20% stronger.[40,41] Most generics are highly comparable, but occasionally when a patient actually changes from one generic to another, the bioavailability could change from a 20% stronger to a 20% weaker generic drug and symptom relapse may occur. By contrast, going from a weaker to a stronger generic might actually improve depression outcomes but may also create new-onset side effects after months of stable treatment as the newer generic preparation is more potent, raising blood levels higher than previously. These types of events should be monitored and dosing adjusted as needed.

Finally, a generic drug may possess a different slow-release mechanism compared with the parent brand-name drug. Oftentimes the generic, despite being a slow-release drug itself may actually release active drug more quickly than the original brand’s slow-release technology. There may be no evidence of a clinical problem; however, some patients may develop side effects when taking the faster release preparation. In this case, the dose may need to be lowered while monitoring for relapse or a switch back to the brand-name slow-release product may be warranted.

In conclusion, this article seeks to identify treatments that match patients with MDD and their common comorbidities, as a first line approach to MDD management. Secondarily and more theoretically, patients’ MDD symptoms may be effectively treated if clinicians are aware of the neurotransmitters and receptors that each antidepressant modulates. Finally, patients may suffer issues with nonefficacy, noncompliance, and tolerability. Each patient is unique and these clinical situations may interfere with optimal depression outcomes. Each patient must be educated and given informed consent about the myriad effective antidepressant treatment options available.

Supported by an independent educational grant from Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

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  8. Phelps NJ, Cates ME, The role of venlafaxine in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Ann Pharmacother. 2005;39:136-140. Abstract
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  13. Hsu, ES. Acute and chronic pain management in fibromyalgia: updates on pharmacotherapy. Am J Ther. 2011;18:487-509. Abstract
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  15. Prince JB, Wilens TE, Biederman J, et al. A controlled study of nortriptyline in children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2000;10:193-204. Abstract
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  18. Olvera RL, Pliszka SR, Luh J, et al. An open trial of venlafaxine in the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 1996;6:241-250. Abstract
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  26. Muller D, Roehr CC, Eggert P. Comparative tolerability of drug treatment for nocturnal enuresis in children. Drug Saf. 2004;27:717-727. Abstract
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  32. Nelson JC, Papakostas GI. Atypical antipsychotic augmentation in major depressive disorder: a meta-analysis of placebo-controlled randomized trials. Am J Psychiatry. 2009;166:980-991. Abstract
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  34. Danish University Antidepressant Group.Paroxetine: a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor showing better tolerance, but weaker antidepressant effect than clomipramine in a controlled multicenter study. J Affect Disord. 1990;18:289-299. Abstract
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  37. Bailey J. Acute psychosis after bupropion treatment in a healthy 28-year-old woman. J Am Board Fam Med. 2008;21:244.
  38. Rush AJ, Trivedi MH, Wisnewlski Sr, et al. Acute and longer-term outcomes in depressed outpatients requiring one or several treatment steps: a STAR*D report. Am J Psychiatry. 2006; 163:1905-1917. Abstract
  39. Zajecka JM, Goldstein C. Combining medication to achieve remission. In: Schwartz T, Petersen T, eds. Depression: Treatment Strategies and Management. 2nd ed. New York: Informa; 2009.
  40. Park K, ed. Controlled Drug Delivery: Challenges and Strategies. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society; 1997.
  41. Orange book annual preface, statistical criteria for bioequivalence. In: Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations. 29th ed. US Food and Drug Administration Center for Drug Evaluation and Research; 2009-06-18, update 3-01-11. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DevelopmentApprovalProcess/ucm079068.htm

Retrieved from: http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/755180

Autism Patients Might Benefit from Drug Therapy

In Medication, Psychiatry, School Psychology on Sunday, 23 September 2012 at 09:01

Autism Patients Might Benefit from Drug Therapy

By SYDNEY LUPKIN | ABC News – Wed, Sep 19, 2012 2:37 PM EDT

Researchers have found a drug that can help patients with Fragile X syndrome, the most common cause of inherited intellectual impairment (formerly known as mental retardation), stay calm in social situations by treating their anxiety.

Dr. Elizabeth Berry-Kravis and her team found that a drug called Arbaclofen reduced social avoidance and repetitive behavior in Fragile X patients, especially those with autism, by treating their anxiety. The drug increases GABA, a chemical in the brain that regulates the excitatory system in Fragile X patients, who have been known to have too little GABA to do the job otherwise, causing their excitatory systems to “signal out of control” and make them anxious.

Such patients have been known to cover their ears or run away at their own birthdays because they are overwhelmed by the attention, but one trial participant said he was able to enjoy his birthday party for the first time in his life while he was on Arbaclofen, she said.

“I feel like it’s kind of the beginning of chemotherapy when people first realized you could use chemotherapy to treat cancer patients instead of just letting them die,” said Berry-Kravis, a professor of neurology and biochemistry at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago who has studied Fragile X for more than 20 years.

She said people used to think Fragile X patients couldn’t be helped either, but she and her team have proven that by using knowledge from existing brain mechanism studies, doctors can select medications to target specific problems in Fragile X patients’ brains.

Fragile X syndrome is a change in the FMRI gene, which makes a protein necessary for brain growth, and studies indicate it causes autism in up to one-third of patients diagnosed with it. Unlike Fragile X syndrome, which is genetic, autism is a behavioral diagnosis characterized by an inability to relate to other people or read social cues. Autism and Fragile X are linked, but not mutually exclusive. A core symptom of both is social withdrawal.

Sixty-three patients with Fragile X participated in Berry-Kravis’s placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial from December 2008 through March 2010. Of those, the patients with autism showed the biggest improvements in social behavior, Berry-Kravis said.

To psychologist Lori Warner, who directs the HOPE Center at Beaumont Children’s Hospital, the study is exciting because when her autistic patients are anxious, they often have a harder time learning the social cues they can’t read on their own.

“Reducing anxiety opens up your brain to be able to take in what’s happening in an environment and be able to learn from and understand social cues because you’re no longer frightened of the situation,” Warner said.

She works mostly with autism patients, and although some do have Fragile X as well, most do not.

Fragile X affects one in 4,000 men and one in 6,000 to 8,000 women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although Arbaclofen worked best on autistic Fragile X patients, further studies will be needed to prove whether it can help all autism patients, not just those with autism caused by Fragile X.

“There’s a difference between one person’s brain and another in how it’s set up,” Berry-Vargis said. “This is not a magic cure. It’s a step.”

Retrieved from: http://gma.yahoo.com/autism-patients-might-benefit-drug-therapy-183744169–abc-news-health.html

More on insomnia…

In Medication, Neuropsychology, Psychiatry on Thursday, 20 September 2012 at 06:30

Expert Interview – Emerging Concepts and Therapies in Insomnia: An Expert Interview With Daniel Buysse, MD

Daniel J. Buysse, MD, 2006

http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/519857

Editor’s Note:

Marni Kelman, MSc, Medscape Neurology & Neurosurgery Editorial Director, discussed emerging concepts and therapies in insomnia with Daniel Buysse, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Insomnia in older adults, comorbid insomnia, new treatments on the horizon for insomnia, and new endpoints for therapeutic effectiveness of insomnia treatments were discussed.

Medscape: This issue of Current Perspectives in Insomnia includes a column on sleep disorders in older adults, with a focus on insomnia. What would you say is the impact of insomnia in older patients?

Dr. Buysse: The impact of insomnia in general is pretty wide-ranging, and some of those impairments are even greater in older people. Insomnia can have negative effects on a person’s mood the next day, on their concentration, on their energy level, or can cause fatigue or even sleepiness. Since older adults might experience these things for other reasons, insomnia tends to make them even worse.

Medscape: Are there any particular things that you take into consideration when you diagnose insomnia in an older patient?

Dr. Buysse: Because older adults will so commonly have medical or psychiatric comorbidity, it’s very important to look for those things. Older adults can have medical conditions that can cause pain, difficulty breathing, or impaired mobility, and all of those things can worsen insomnia. Older adults are also at risk for depression, which is the most common comorbid condition seen with insomnia. In addition, older adults are typically the ones who are taking the most medications, and because many medications can have effects on sleep, including insomnia, it’s very important to assess the effects of medications as well.

There are also a number of behavioral factors that can contribute to insomnia — things like going to bed early or spending too much time in bed — and those things, too, affect older adults disproportionately, since in older adults, limitations in daytime activities may leave them with fewer alternatives to going to bed. So, from both a medical perspective and a behavioral perspective, older adults are at risk.

There are a couple of sleep disorders that are more common in older adults that may be associated with insomnia symptoms, and those include restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder. There is almost certainly an increase in periodic limb movements with age, and again, this can lead to, or be associated with insomnia complaints. Older adults also have an increased incidence of sleep apnea, and compared to younger adults, sleep apnea may less commonly be associated with obesity, and less commonly associated with daytime sleepiness as the primary presenting complaint. The combination of sleep apnea with insomnia seems to be something that is disproportionately common in older adults.

The final sleep disorder that is common in older patients and that can cause insomnia is advanced sleep-phase syndrome. An individual with this syndrome feels very sleepy and goes to sleep early in the evening but then has insomnia characterized by early-morning awakening and an inability to return to sleep. This condition may be related to certain circadian changes that accompany aging.

Medscape: What special considerations do you take into account when you treat older patients with insomnia?

Dr. Buysse: With regard to medications, one needs to proceed a bit more cautiously for 2 reasons. First, older adults may have changes in drug-metabolizing enzymes, so they may metabolize drugs more slowly, or store drugs disproportionately longer because of an increase in the relative amount of body fat. This means that the same drug may have a longer than expected action in older adults. Second, older adults are typically on multiple medications, and some may have additive effects with some of the medications that we give for sleep.

With regard to behavioral treatments, I think the main thing to keep in mind is that older adults can and do benefit from those kinds of treatments as well. So the main message there is to not assume that older adults can’t learn these techniques; they can, and several studies have shown that they can be very effective.

Medscape: Are there particular types of medications that you use in the elderly and/or avoid?

Dr. Buysse: Generally, the approved hypnotic medications are appropriate for older adults, but you do need to be cautious, so it’s often wise to begin with a lower dose than you would use in younger and middle-aged adults. Because of the sensitivity that older people may have to the cognitive side effects of hypnotic drugs, in general, you would want to use a short-acting drug whenever possible to avoid the daytime cognitive and sedative consequences of hypnotic medications. The new hypnotic medication, ramelteon, may be particularly useful in older adults because it has very, very few — actually no — demonstrated cognitive side effects. So that may be a useful drug. The question there is whether it’s actually long enough acting to help with some of the sleep-maintenance problems that older adults might have.

Sedating antidepressants are pretty commonly used, as are antihistamines for the treatment of insomnia. Antihistaminic drugs should be approached with particular caution in the elderly because they often have anticholinergic effects that can worsen cognition and even lead to adverse consequences, such as delirium and urinary retention. One also needs to be careful when using sedating antidepressants in older adults.

Medscape: Another topic that we have discussed in this newsletter is insomnia associated with psychiatric and medical disorders. Are there particular considerations that you take into account when diagnosing those types of patients as well as treating them?

Dr. Buysse: The previous assumption was that if insomnia is associated with another condition, one would be best off just treating that other condition, and then the insomnia should get better. While there is clearly some evidence that treating comorbid conditions does lead to some improvement in insomnia, in many individuals insomnia may persist, even when the other disorder is adequately or optimally treated. In those cases, it may be useful to think of insomnia as a comorbid condition rather than as, strictly speaking, a symptom of that other disorder. If you think of insomnia as a comorbid condition, then in many cases it’s appropriate to direct treatment at the insomnia itself.

There is certainly emerging evidence that treating insomnia specifically does lead to improvement in sleep among patients with either medical conditions or psychiatric conditions. However, there is also a small, but growing, body of evidence that treating insomnia may actually lead to better outcomes of the comorbid medical or psychiatric condition itself.

Medscape: I would also like to ask for your feedback on emerging treatments for insomnia. Are there particular new therapeutic targets for therapy that you think are most promising?

Dr. Buysse: There are a lot of different therapeutic targets that are being examined, and I think the first general thing to say is that this is great because it’s unlikely that insomnia in all people results from the same problem. Therefore, having different ways to impact sleep just makes sense. The other point is that the regulation of sleep itself is very complex and involves multiple neurotransmitter systems. So again, having drugs that target different neurotransmitter systems just makes good sense.

Having said that, there are new agents under investigation that affect the GABA-benzodiazepine receptors and have modified-release preparations so that you can combine a reasonably long duration of action with a short half-life. That means that there is the possibility of providing adequate coverage of insomnia for the entire night, but rapid metabolism of the medication occurs toward the end of the night so that there are fewer daytime consequences.

That’s one strategy. Another strategy is to look at GABA reuptake or extrasynaptic GABA receptors. Other neurotransmitter systems are also being investigated, including serotonin 5HT2A receptors. Antagonists at that receptor have different effects on sleep, so that will be interesting to investigate. Different companies are looking into medications that interact with hypocretin or orexin receptors. That, too, promises, I think, to be a pretty exciting development.

Medscape: There has been some discussion about using new therapeutic endpoints for insomnia, for example, alertness, decreased depression, or decreased daytime napping. How do you feel about this, and what do you think are the most promising new endpoints that should be considered when looking at therapeutic effectiveness?

Dr. Buysse: I think that this is a very important area because patients with insomnia complain not only because their nighttime sleep is disturbed, but because that disturbance is associated with daytime consequences. Therefore, I think that the most interesting areas to look at are those that assess the daytime complaints presented by people with insomnia. One area is the routine assessment of mood symptoms and problems. We’ve been working on some data that show that it may be important not only to assess the person’s mood, but to evaluate how mood changes during the course of the day. So, looking at time-of-day effects may be very important. The second area to assess is fatigue, which is so commonly reported by people with insomnia and can be reliably measured with a number of rating scales. That should certainly be a focus of increased attention.

An area that has been somewhat perplexing, but very important, is the measurement of cognitive difficulties in people with insomnia. There have not been a lot of positive studies in this regard, so despite the fact that people complain of difficulty concentrating or problems with alertness, actually demonstrating impairments has generally not met with success. This may be due to the fact that the tools we have used have been of the wrong type or are not sensitive enough. So, I think trying to identify and develop tests that objectively measure daytime performance as related to the insomnia complaints would be very beneficial as well.

Medscape: What would you consider to be the biggest challenges in insomnia today?

Dr. Buysse: For behavioral and psychological treatments, the big challenge is making those treatments more widely available. We have several techniques that have demonstrated efficacy, but trying to really position them in the community so they have a wide impact is the challenge.

For medications, one of the biggest challenges is developing strategies for longer-term management of insomnia. We know that insomnia tends to be a chronic or recurring condition, and there is still uncertainty about the optimal way to manage chronic insomnia with medications.

The more general thing that I would say pertains to both behavioral and pharmacologic treatment: We really are in very substantial need of empirically supported treatment guidelines or treatment algorithms. We know that we have several efficacious treatments, but we don’t know how best to sequence them, how to target them to specific patients, and how to change from one to the other when the first treatment does not meet with success.

 

Hypnotic use and side effects

In Insomnia, Medication, Neuropsychology, Psychiatry on Tuesday, 18 September 2012 at 05:25

chronic insomnia and sleep deprivation are major issues affecting over 30% of  the u.s population.  approximately 10 million people are prescribed hypnotics to treat insomnia.  while the concurrent effects from untreated insomnia are vast, and hypnotic use may be the only viable option, it is suggested that one educate themselves on the effects related to untreated insomnia (see previous post titled “the state of sleep in the u.s.”) and options for treatment as well as recent research regarding the side-effects of some treatments.  

Hypnotic Use Linked With Increased Risk for Early Death

Megan Brooks & Laurie Barclay, MD

http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/759730

Clinical Context

In 2010, approximately 6% to 10% of US adults used a hypnotic drug for sleep problems. Earlier studies have suggested an association between hypnotic use and excess mortality rates.

The objectives of this study by Kripke and colleagues were to estimate the mortality risks and cancer risks associated with specific, currently popular hypnotics, using a matched cohort design and proportional hazards regression models. In addition, the investigators examined what degree of risk associated with hypnotic use could be explained by confounders and comorbid conditions.

Study Synopsis and Perspective

Adults who use hypnotics to help them sleep have a greater than 3-fold increased risk for early death, according to results of a large matched cohort survival analysis.

Hazard ratios were elevated in separate analyses for several commonly prescribed hypnotics and for newer shorter-acting drugs, the researchers say. The drugs included benzodiazepines, such as temazepam; nonbenzodiazepines, such as zolpidem, eszopiclone, and zaleplon; barbiturates; and sedative antihistamines.

“The take-home from the article is that the risks associated with hypnotics are very high, and certainly these possible risks outweigh any benefits of hypnotics,” first author Daniel F. Kripke, MD, co-director of research at the Scripps Clinic Viterbi Family Sleep Center in La Jolla, California, told Medscape Medical News.

“Our study is the 19th epidemiological study showing that hypnotics are significantly associated with excess mortality,” Dr. Kripke added, noting it is also the first to specify the drugs and the first to show dose-response. “Even considering that the epidemiologic studies show association and do not prove causality, the risks look much larger than the benefits,” Dr. Kripke added.

Their analysis also showed a 35% overall increased risk for cancer in hypnotics users. “The risks of hypnotics are similar to the risks of cigarettes,” Dr. Kripke said.

The associations were evident in every age but were greatest among those aged 18 to 55 years, the investigators note. “Rough order-of-magnitude estimates…suggest that in 2010, hypnotics may have been associated with 320,000 to 507,000 excess deaths in the USA alone,” they report.

The new report is published February 28 in BMJ Open.

Dr. Kripke, a long-time critic of hypnotics, emphasized that the data “apply only to the particular hypnotics studied when used as sleeping pills. They do not apply to drugs which were not tested.” Moreover, he said, they may not apply when the drugs are used other purposes, “in which they might be life-saving. Oddly enough, the data for use of benzodiazepines for anxiety may not be similar,” Dr. Kripke noted.

“Risks Outweigh Any Benefits”

In 2010, an estimated 6% to 10% of adults in the United States took a hypnotic drug to help them sleep, with the percentages probably higher in Europe, Dr. Kripke and colleagues note in their report.

Data for their analysis were derived from the electronic medical records of the Geisinger Health System, the largest rural integrated health system in the United States, serving a 41-county area of Pennsylvania with roughly 2.5 million people.

Study participants included 10,529 adults (mean age, 54 years) who received hypnotic prescriptions and 23,676 matched controls with no hypnotic prescriptions, followed for an average of 2.5 years between 2002 and 2007.

“As predicted,” report the researchers, patients prescribed any hypnotic, even fewer than 18 pills per year, were significantly more likely to die during follow-up compared with those prescribed no hypnotics. A dose-response effect was evident, and the findings “were robust with adjustment for multiple potential confounders and consistent using multiple strategies to address confounding by health status,” they report.

Table 1. Risk for Death by Level of Hypnotic Use

Any Hypnotic

Hazard Ratio (95% Confidence Interval)

P Value

Up to 18 pills per year

3.60 (2.92 – 4.44)

<.001

18 – 132 pills per year

4.43 (3.67 – 5.36)

<.001

> 132 pills per year

5.32 (4.50 – 6.30)

<.001

Zolpidem was the most commonly prescribed hypnotic during the study interval, followed by temazepam; both were associated with significantly elevated risks for death, again in a dose-response fashion.

Table 2. Risk for Death with Zolpidem and Temazepam

Agent (mg/y)

Hazard Ratio (95% Confidence Interval)

P Value

Zolpidem

5 – 130

3.93 (2.98 – 5.17)

<.001

130 – 800

4.54 (3.46 – 5.95)

<.001

> 800

5.69 (4.58 – 7.07)

<.001

Temazepam

10 – 240

3.71 (2.55 – 5.38)

<.001

240 – 1640

4.15 (2.88 – 5.99)

<.001

> 1640

6.56 (5.03 – 8.55)

<.001

“The death [hazard ratios] HR associated with prescriptions for less commonly prescribed hypnotic drugs were likewise elevated and the confidence limits of death hazards for each other hypnotic overlapped that for zolpidem, with the exception of eszopiclone, which was associated with higher mortality,” the investigators report.

Any hypnotic use in the upper third (>132 pills per year) was also associated with a modest but statistically significant increased risk for incident cancer (HR, 1.35; 95% CI, 1.18 – 1.55). The cancer risk was nearly 2-fold higher with temazepam (>1640 mg per year; HR, 1.99; 95% CI, 1.57 – 2.52).

Study Raises “Important Concerns”

Prior studies have shown multiple causal pathways by which hypnotics might raise the risk for death. For example, controlled trials have shown that hypnotics impair motor and cognitive skills, such as driving. Use of hypnotics has been linked to an increase in automobile crashes and an increase in falls due to hangover sedation. In some patients, hypnotics may increase or prolong sleep apneas and suppress respiratory drive. They may also increase incident depression.

“The meagre benefits of hypnotics, as critically reviewed by groups without financial interest… would not justify substantial risks,” the investigators write. They say a “consensus is developing that cognitive-behavioural therapy of chronic insomnia may be more successful than hypnotics.”

In a prepared statement, Trish Groves, MBBS, MRCPsych, editor-in-chief of BMJ Open, comments: “Although the authors have not been able to prove that sleeping pills cause premature death, their analyses have ruled out a wide range of other possible causative factors. So these findings raise important concerns and questions about the safety of sedatives and sleeping pills.”

American Academy of Sleep Medicine Urges Caution

In a statement, Nancy Collop, MD, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) urged caution in interpreting these data.

“Although the study found that the use of hypnotic medication, or sleeping pills, was associated with an increased risk of mortality, a cause-and-effect relationship could not be established because the study only analyzed an insurance database,” Dr. Collop notes in the statement. “The authors also noted several other limitations to their study. For example, it was impossible for them to control for psychiatric conditions and anxiety, which is an area of significant concern to this study population.” In addition, she adds, those taking hypnotics had a “markedly greater rate of several comorbid health problems than the control group, suggesting they were a sicker population.”

AASM guidelines say that hypnotic medication prescribed appropriately and monitored carefully is a “reasonably” safe therapy that provides some improvement in people with insomnia, Dr. Collop notes in the statement. When possible, behavioral and cognitive therapies should be used and if needed supplemented with short-term use of hypnotics, the guidelines recommend. “Patients taking hypnotics should schedule regular follow-up visits with their physician, and efforts should be made to prescribe the lowest effective dose of medication and to reduce the medication’s usage when conditions allow,” the statement adds.

Effective treatment of insomnia is important because it’s associated with a “host” of comorbid conditions, including major depression and other psychiatric disorders, as well as increased for suicide, motor vehicle accidents, and possibly cardiovascular disease, Dr. Collop points out. Other research has shown widespread changes in physiology and the central nervous system associated with insomnia, and the “marked dysfunction and diminished quality of life” reported by some of those with insomnia are similar to that seen with major psychiatric or medical illnesses.

“We commend Drs. Kripke, Langer and Kline for contributing new scientific information to the study of sleep medicine,” Dr. Collop notes in the AASM statement. “We believe it is important for patients and physicians to be aware of how sleep issues impact health. But we caution physicians and patients to consider the years of research in support of limited hypnotics use, under the clinical guidelines of the AASM, before making any drastic changes in therapy.”

The AASM recommends that individuals with ongoing sleep problems should seek help from a board-certified sleep physician, “at one of 2,400 AASM-accredited sleep centers across the US.” A sleep center listing is found at the AASM’s site, www.sleepcenters.org.

In a competing interests statement, Dr. Kripke reports long-term criticism of hypnotic drugs at his nonprofit Web site. He also discloses a family interest in an investment corporation that has a small percentage of its assets in stock of sanofi-aventis and Johnson & Johnson. His 2 coauthors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships. Dr. Collop has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

BMJ Open. Published online February 28, 2012. Abstract

Study Highlights

  • This matched cohort study took place at a large, integrated US health system.
  • The investigators extracted longitudinal electronic medical records for a 1-to-2 matched cohort survival analysis.
  • Patients who received hypnotic prescriptions (n = 10,529) were matched with 23,676 control participants with no hypnotic prescriptions.
  • Mean age was 54 years, and average duration of follow-up (between January 2002 and January 2007) was 2.5 years.
  • Data were adjusted for age, sex, smoking, body mass index, ethnicity, marital status, alcohol use, and history of cancer.
  • Cox proportional hazards models allowed calculation of HRs for death.
  • The Cox models were controlled for risk factors and used up to 116 strata, which exactly matched case patients and control participants by 12 classes of comorbidity.
  • Compared with patients who were prescribed no hypnotics, those who were prescribed any hypnotic had markedly increased hazards of dying.
  • There was a dose-response association. The HR was 3.60 (95% CI, 2.92 – 4.44) for 0.4 – 18 doses per year, 4.43 (95% CI, 3.67 – 5.36) for 18 to 132 doses per year, and 5.32 (95% CI, 4.50 – 6.30) for more than 132 doses per year.
  • In separate analyses, HRs were increased for several widely used hypnotics and for newer shorter-acting drugs, including zolpidem, temazepam, eszopiclone, zaleplon, other benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and sedative antihistamines.
  • Among users in the highest tertiles of doses per year, the HRs for death were 5.3 for all hypnotics, 5.7 for zolpidem alone, and 6.6 for temazepam alone.
  • Patients in the highest tertile of hypnotic use had a significant (35%) increased risk for incident cancer (HR, 1.35; 95% CI, 1.18 – 1.55).
  • These findings were robust within groups having a comorbid condition, suggesting that the risks for death and cancer associated with hypnotic drugs were not explained by preexisting disease.
  • Hypnotic prescriptions were associated with increased diagnoses of esophageal regurgitation and peptic ulcer disease; the investigators note that increased regurgitation could cause esophageal damage and cancer.
  • On the basis of these findings, the investigators concluded that hypnotic prescriptions was associated with more than a 3-fold increased risk for death, even when the prescription was for less than 18 pills per year.
  • This association was also observed in separate analyses for several commonly used hypnotics and for newer, shorter-acting drugs. Control of selective prescription of hypnotics for patients in poor health did not explain the observed excess mortality rates.
  • Limitations of this study include possible residual confounding, lack of data on compliance with prescriptions, and inability to determine causality or to control for depression and other psychiatric symptoms.

Clinical Implications

  • Compared with control participants not receiving hypnotic prescriptions, patients receiving prescriptions for zolpidem, temazepam, and other commonly used hypnotics had a more than 3-fold risk for greater mortality in this matched cohort study. There appeared to be a dose-response relationship, but even patients prescribed less than 18 hypnotic doses per year had increased mortality rates.
  • Among patients prescribed hypnotics, the incidence of cancer was increased for several specific types of cancer, and those prescribed high doses had an increased overall rate of cancer of 35%.

The state of sleep in the U.S.

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, ADHD stimulant treatment, Anxiety, Fitness/Health, Medication, Well-being on Tuesday, 18 September 2012 at 05:04

stress, anxiety, and depression are but three related etiologies for insomnia.  people with ADHD also suffer from insomnia, either as a side-effect of psychostimulants or because of the ADHD itself.  insomnia can have significant effects on quality of life, work/school life, and health.  statistics show that insomnia is a growing problem in the U.S. today and sleep aids are being prescribed at an increasing rate.  the following are some statistics related to insomnia as well as a case-study/research article on insomnia. 

to be followed by an article about hypnotic use and associated risk-factors.

***

General Insomnia Statistics

  • People today sleep 20% less than they did 100 years ago.
  • More than 30% of the population suffers from insomnia.
  • One in three people suffer from some form of insomnia during their lifetime.
  • More than half of Americans lose sleep due to stress and/or anxiety.
  • Between 40% and 60% of people over the age of 60 suffer from insomnia.
  • Women are up to twice as likely to suffer from insomnia than men.
  • Approximately 35% of insomniacs have a family history of insomnia.
  • 90% of people who suffer from depression also experience insomnia.
  • Approximately 10 million people in the U.S. use prescription sleep aids.
  • People who suffer from sleep deprivation are 27% more likely to become overweight or obese. There is also a link between weight gain and sleep apnea.
  • A National Sleep Foundation Poll shows that 60% of people have driven while feeling sleepy (and 37% admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel) in the past year.
  • A recent Consumer Reports survey showed the top reason couples gave for avoiding sex was “too tired or need sleep.”

Financial Implications of Insomnia

Insomnia statistics aren’t confined to the relationship between insomnia and health. This sleep disorder costs government and industry billions of dollars a year.

  • The Institute of Medicine estimates that hundreds of billions of dollars are spent annually on medical costs that are directly related to sleep disorders.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show that 100,000 vehicle accidents occur annually drowsy driving. An estimated 1,500 die each year in these collisions.
  • Employers spend approximately $3,200 more in health care costs on employees with sleep problems than for those who sleep well.
  • According to the US Surgeon General, insomnia costs the U.S. Government more than $15 billion per year in health care costs.
  • Statistics also show that US industry loses about $150 billion each year because of sleep deprived workers. This takes into account absenteeism and lost productivity.

These sobering insomnia statistics underscore the importance of enhancing sleep disorder awareness and why individuals need to seek immediate treatment for the health and the well-being of others.

Sources: National Sleep Foundation, Better Sleep Council, Gallup Polls, Institute of Medicine, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, US Surgeon General’s Office

http://www.better-sleep-better-life.com/insomnia-statistics.html

Manifestations and Management of Chronic Insomnia: NIH State-of-the-Science Conference Findings and Implications

Authors: William T. Riley, PhD; Carl E. Hunt, MD

http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/517618

Introduction

The Problem of the Inadequate Identification and Treatment of Chronic Insomnia

Despite considerable advances in the understanding of and treatments for chronic insomnia, this condition remains inadequately identified and treated. Approximately one third of US adults report difficulty sleeping, and 10% to 15% have the clinical disorder of insomnia.[1] Among primary care patients, approximately half have sleep difficulties, but these difficulties often are undetected by health professionals.[2,3] Even if detected and appropriately diagnosed, these patients are more likely to receive treatments of questionable safety and efficacy rather than treatments with substantial, evidence-based support for safety and efficacy.

The inadequate identification and treatment of chronic insomnia has serious medical and public health implications. Chronic insomnia results in impaired occupational performance and diminished quality of life.[4,5] Insomnia is associated with higher healthcare usage and costs, including a 2-fold increase in hospitalizations and physician visits.[6] Insomnia is also a risk factor for a number of other disorders, particularly psychiatric disorders, such as depression, and an important sign or symptom for a range of medical and other psychiatric disorders.[7]

In a recent review, Benca[8] identified the following 5 barriers to the recognition, diagnosis, and treatment of insomnia in primary care settings:

  • Inadequate knowledge base: In the 1990s, about one third of medical schools had no formal sleep medicine training. A majority of practitioners rate their knowledge of sleep medicine as only “fair.”
  • Office visit time constraints: Unless sleep difficulties are the presenting complaint, visit time may be inadequate for sleep difficulties to be addressed.
  • Lack of discussion about sleep: Less than half of patients with insomnia have discussed this problem with their physicians, and most of these discussions were patient-initiated.
  • Misperceptions regarding treatment: Health professionals may have greater concerns than warranted about the safety and efficacy of pharmacologic treatments, and they may not be aware of or have access to effective nonpharmacologic approaches.
  • Lack of evidence for functional outcomes: Although treatments for insomnia reduce symptoms in the short term, there is inadequate evidence for long-term efficacy, improvements in daytime functioning, or the impact on comorbid disorders.

Addressing these barriers could lead to improved recognition and treatment of chronic insomnia and may substantially reduce the personal and public health burden of this disorder.

The Importance of Appropriate Recognition and Treatment of Chronic Insomnia: NIH State-of-the-Science Conference Statement

The purpose of this Clinical Update is to emphasize the importance of appropriate recognition of and treatment for chronic insomnia based on the recently published statement from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) State-of-the-Science Conference on the Manifestations and Management of Chronic Insomnia in Adults.[9] An independent panel of health professionals convened in June 2005 to evaluate the evidence from (1) systematic literature reviews prepared by the Agency for Health Research and Quality, (2) presentations by insomnia researchers over a 2-day public session, (3) questions and comments by conference attendees during the public sessions, and (4) closed deliberations by the panel. This process resulted in a State-of-the-Science (SOS) Conference Statement on chronic insomnia, including implications for clinical and research efforts.

The SOS Conference proceedings and statement were organized around the following 5 questions, which serve as the outline for this Clinical Update:

  • How is chronic insomnia defined, diagnosed, and classified, and what is known about its etiology?
  • What are the prevalence, natural history, incidence, and risk factors for chronic insomnia?
  • What are the consequences, morbidities, comorbidities, and public health burden associated with chronic insomnia?
  • What treatments are used for the management of chronic insomnia, and what is the evidence regarding their safety, efficacy, and effectiveness?
  • What are important future directions for insomnia-related research?

The SOS Conference focused on adults with chronic insomnia, not acute or episodic manifestations, which typically resolve in a few weeks, often without intervention. Although secondary or comorbid insomnia (insomnia associated with other conditions) was considered with respect to diagnosis and classification, the conference focused on the treatment of primary insomnia, not on any existing comorbid conditions. This Clinical Update, therefore, follows the scope of the SOS Conference and focuses on chronic primary insomnia in adults. Information in the SOS Conference Statement is augmented by the research literature, including a number of excellent, recent reviews on the clinical management of insomnia.[8,10-14]

How Is Chronic Insomnia Defined, Diagnosed, and Classified, and What Is Known About Its Etiology?

Case Study: Part 1

A 56-year-old woman presents for routine monitoring of postmenopausal symptoms and bone density, following a 2-year course of hormone replacement therapy that was initiated 5 years ago when she began experiencing hot flashes and depressive symptoms. During the visit, she is asked about her sleep and reveals that she has difficulty falling asleep most nights and sometimes awakens in the middle of the night, and is unable to go back to sleep. She notes frustration at her inability to get a good night’s sleep, particularly because she often feels tired and has difficulty concentrating at work. She reports that her insomnia began about the time of her menopausal symptoms, but has continued even though her other menopausal symptoms have resolved.

What steps should be taken to diagnose her condition?

Detecting Sleep Difficulties

The patient in the case above has a distinct advantage over many patients who suffer with insomnia because her healthcare professional specifically asked about her sleep. As early as Hippocrates, sleep has been an important indicator of patient health. “Disease exists, if either sleep or watchfulness be excessive”: Hippocrates, Aphorism LXXI.[12] In a recent study of adult primary care patients with insomnia, only about half reported discussing insomnia with their physicians.[15] Other studies have found that only 10% to 30% of those with insomnia discussed this problem with their physicians,[16] and most healthcare providers fail to ask about sleep.[2] Asking a simple question, such as “How have you been sleeping?” can lead to the detection of insomnia and a range of other sleep-related conditions.[17]

Definitions and Diagnostic Criteria for Chronic Insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep disturbance that most often manifests as difficulty initiating sleep, but also manifests as difficulty maintaining sleep or experiencing early-morning awakenings.

How much sleep disruption is sufficient for the diagnosis of insomnia? Normal sleep needs vary greatly from individual to individual. Moreover, the degree of sleep disturbance in those with insomnia can be quite variable from night to night, including nights without any sleep disturbance. Although quantitative indices for sleep-onset latency (≥ 30 minutes) and for sleep efficiency (percentage of total time asleep over total time in bed ≤ 85%) have been used for research purposes,[18] these indices do not correlate well with the patient’s experience of insomnia.[19] Therefore, the subjective experience of inadequate sleep is frequently more important than quantitative sleep indices in diagnosing insomnia.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) defines primary insomnia as a difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep or experiencing nonrestorative sleep that results in clinically significant distress or impairment in functioning.[20] Based on these criteria, someone who does not appear to have objective manifestations of sleep disturbance but whose sleep is sufficiently inadequate or nonrestorative to produce distress or dysfunction would meet the criteria for insomnia. In contrast, someone who gets only a few hours of sleep each night but feels rested and without associated distress or dysfunction does not meet the criteria for insomnia. Therefore, subjective impressions of nonrestorative sleep with associated distress or dysfunction are important symptoms of insomnia.

These complaints of disturbed sleep also must occur in the context of adequate opportunity and circumstances for sleep. Although disruption of sleep from environmental perturbations may place someone at risk for insomnia, sleep disruption is not classified as insomnia unless there is adequate opportunity to sleep. Resident physicians on call or mothers of newborns commonly experience sleep disturbances, nonrestorative sleep, and daytime distress or impairment from inadequate sleep, but these problems are not diagnosed as insomnia because they are the result of having an inadequate opportunity to sleep.

Many people experience insomnia on occasion, but most of these “acute” or “episodic” forms of insomnia are transient and typically resolve without treatment. The duration required for insomnia to be “chronic” has varied from as little as 1 month to as long as 6 months. Based primarily on recent Research and Diagnostic Criteria (RDC) for insomnia,[21] the SOS Conference Statement concluded that insomnia lasting 1 month or more is clinically important and indicates the need for professional attention.

The SOS Conference Statement concluded that insomnia lasting 1 month or more is clinically important and indicates the need for professional attention.

RDC for insomnia. The Academy of Sleep Medicine recently developed RDC for insomnia[21] in an effort to merge different nosologies and improve the diagnostic reliability of insomnia. The RDC criteria also provide 3 subclassifications of primary insomnia: Psychophysiologic Insomnia, Paradoxical Insomnia (Sleep State Misperception), and Idiopathic Insomnia, which may facilitate research on potential etiologies of this disorder. These diagnostic criteria will be included in the second edition of the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD-2) and will likely be adopted in the next International Classification of Diseases (ICD) version. The RDC diagnostic scheme first delineates the criteria for an insomnia disorder and then specifies the exclusion criteria for primary insomnia. Compared with the DSM-IV criteria, the RDC insomnia criteria specify the requirement for adequate opportunity or circumstances for sleep and provide greater detail of the distress or functional impairment criteria. The RDC criteria for primary insomnia also clarify that the presence of a comorbid disorder does not exclude the diagnosis of primary insomnia unless the insomnia can be attributed exclusively to the comorbid disorder.

Comorbid insomnia. Primary insomnia is a diagnosis of exclusion. Numerous other conditions can contribute to the onset or maintenance of insomnia, including psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, other sleep disorders, or medical conditions/treatments. In the past, insomnia was considered “secondary” if it appeared due to another condition, but this was often difficult to determine clinically.[22] In addition, the relationship between insomnia and various comorbid disorders is complex and multidirectional. For example, insomnia may be a symptom of comorbid depression, but it may also be a separate and predisposing condition for depression.[23]

Given these complexities, the SOS Conference Panel recommended that “comorbid insomnia” replace the term “secondary insomnia.” The practical implication of this terminology for clinicians is that insomnia should not be relegated to secondary status whenever a comorbid disorder exists. The presence of comorbid disorders needs to be evaluated, and temporal relationships between the course of the comorbid disorder and the insomnia may shed light on possible etiologic relationships between them,[7] but it cannot be assumed that treating only the comorbid disorder will result in resolution of the insomnia as well.

The SOS Conference Panel recommended that “comorbid insomnia” replace the term “secondary insomnia.”

Clinical assessment of insomnia. The diagnosis of insomnia is based primarily on the patient’s history. Reports by family members, particularly the bed partner, can augment the assessment of sleep behavior and daytime functioning. Medical history and physical examination are also useful for determining the presence of possible comorbid syndromes.[7]

Sleep diaries are frequently used to document sleep-and-wake behaviors. In addition to providing data to support a diagnosis, these data are often used to devise treatment plans and to monitor treatment outcomes. Patients are typically instructed to complete the diary each morning after awaking and provide their best estimates of variables, such as time in bed, time of sleep onset, awakenings, and wake time. These data are only estimates by patients and tend to underestimate actual sleep time, but they are useful for assessing individual sleep patterns, possible factors associated with poor sleep, and changes in sleep over time. There are also a number of self-report instruments, a few of which have been adequately standardized and validated for monitoring outcomes.[24]

To provide more objective measures of sleep behavior, actigraphs or accelerometers have been used in research trials to infer sleep-and-wake behaviors from changes in the amount of movement. Although useful, actigraphs have not been fully validated and may underestimate sleep time if sleep is restless or fitful (eg, with comorbid restless legs syndrome). Actigraphs and other automated measures of sleep behavior have not typically been used in routine practice, but can provide more objective measures of sleep patterns, especially when the patient’s report is in question (eg, sleep-state misperception).[25]

Polysomnography remains the gold standard for measuring sleep-wake states; however, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine does not recommend polysomnography for the assessment of insomnia except when needed to rule out a comorbid disorder, such as sleep apnea.[26] In addition to expense, polysomnography is unlikely to provide an accurate representation of an insomnia patient’s sleep difficulties given the night-to-night variability of sleep behavior and influence of the sleep environment on insomnia symptoms.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine does not recommend polysomnography for the assessment of insomnia except when needed to rule out a comorbid disorder, such as sleep apnea.

Etiology of insomnia. Although there is growing consensus about the appropriate diagnostic criteria and procedures for insomnia, the possible etiologic factors for insomnia remain poorly understood. Spielman’s 3 Ps — predisposing, precipitating, and perpetuating factors — is a useful model for organizing various etiologic factors.[27]

Very little is known about possible predisposing factors for insomnia. Other than some limited research suggesting familial aggregation,[28,29] there are no data on genetic predisposition for insomnia. There is considerable research on the neurobiology of sleep-wake states, including the inhibitory feedback loop involving the GABA and galanin neurons in the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus of the hypothalamus and the orexin or hypocretin neurons in the posterior hypothalamus, which serve as a “flip-flop” switch of major cortical arousal systems.[30,31] It remains unclear, however, how these systems are dysfunctional in insomnia. Deficiencies in endogenous melatonin or benzodiazepine receptors and hyperactivity of corticotropin-releasing factor neurons are possible etiologic factors, but further research is needed to better understand these potential etiologies for insomnia.[32]

The possible etiologic factors for insomnia remain poorly understood, and little is known about possible predisposing factors for insomnia.

Hyperarousal appears to be an important mechanism for insomnia. Research has shown increased brain glucose metabolism when awake or asleep, increased beta and decreased theta and delta during sleep, and increased adrenocorticotropic hormone activity.[33,34] Results from recent functional imaging studies provide additional support for the central nervous system hyperarousal hypothesis.[35]

Potential precipitating factors for insomnia are numerous and include many of the possible disorders that are comorbid with insomnia, such as psychiatric disturbance, sleep-wake schedule changes, medical conditions and their treatments, other sleep disorders, and substance use. Substances, including caffeine, theophylline and other stimulants, steroids, antihypertensives, and antidepressants, can also precipitate insomnia.[12] A recent study found that family, health, and work-school-related events were the most common precipitating factors for insomnia, and that even positive events can precipitate insomnia.[36]

There is general agreement that insomnia, regardless of how it is precipitated, is perpetuated by cognitive and behavioral mechanisms. Cognitive factors involved in perpetuating insomnia include misconceptions about normal sleep needs and stability, misattributions about the causes of sleep disturbance, and catastrophic worry about the daytime effects of inadequate sleep.[18,37] These dysfunctional beliefs often promote behaviors that are intended to improve sleep but are disruptive to sleep homeostasis and a consistent sleep-wake cycle (eg, taking naps and sleeping in late to “catch up” on sleep). These sleep-disruptive behaviors are further perpetuated by behavioral conditioning, which produces conditioned arousal to stimuli that would normally be associated with sleep.[38] It is important to recognize that these cognitive and behavioral perpetuating factors may be present in both comorbid and primary

What Are the Prevalence, Course, Incidence, and Risk Factors for Chronic Insomnia?

Prevalence of Chronic Insomnia

Estimates of the prevalence of insomnia vary depending on the definition used. Approximately one third of the general population complains of sleep disruption, and 9% to 15% of the population report associated daytime impairment consistent with the diagnosis of insomnia.[1] However, the proportion of those reporting sleep disturbance with daytime impairment who would meet the diagnostic criteria for insomnia is unclear. Among patients in primary care, the prevalence rates for insomnia are much higher, as high as 50%.[4] In a large survey of managed care participants, over one third experienced symptoms of insomnia, although less than 1% presented with an insomnia complaint.[39]

Incidence, Natural Course, and Duration of Chronic Insomnia

The SOS Conference Statement noted that there is very little known about the incidence, natural course, and duration of insomnia. Limited evidence suggests that insomnia is a chronic and persisting condition with low rates of spontaneous remission and possible recurrence after a period of remission, but these processes are poorly understood.

There is very little known about the incidence, natural course, and duration of insomnia.

Risk Factors for Chronic Insomnia

Given that most research on risk factors for insomnia is cross-sectional, not longitudinal, it is difficult to know whether potential risk factors are causal or correlational. The prevalence of insomnia is higher in divorced, separated, or widowed adults, and in those with lower education and income levels.[1] Insomnia is also more likely to occur in women, especially postmenopausal women.[1] There is an increased prevalence of insomnia in older adults, but it remains unclear to what extent this is independent of declining health and comorbid influences. Sleep patterns, however, do change with age. Older people experience more awakenings during the night, lower sleep efficiency, less sleep, more variable sleep, and lighter sleep than younger adults.[40]

Several psychiatric and medical disorders are associated with insomnia. As noted earlier, however, these relationships are complex and multidirectional. For example, research on the relationship between insomnia and depression indicates that it is more likely that insomnia is a risk factor for depression than that depression is a risk factor for insomnia. Insomnia appears to be predictive of a number of disorders, including depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse/dependence, drug abuse/dependence, and suicide.[41] Medical and sleep disorders that potentially disrupt sleep (eg, chronic pain conditions, such as arthritis, or sleep apnea) may be precipitants of or risk factors for insomnia. Substance abuse and the use of prescribed medications that can disturb sleep also can be risk factors for insomnia.

It is difficult to know whether potential risk factors are causal or correlational. Several psychiatric and medical disorders are associated with insomnia, but these associations are complex and multidirectional.

What Are the Consequences, Morbidities, Comorbidities, and Public Health Burden Associated With Chronic Insomnia?

Economic Costs of Insomnia

Insomnia is associated with high healthcare utilization. Walsh and Ustun[42] estimated annual direct total costs for insomnia at about $12 billion for healthcare services and $2 billion for sleep-promoting agents. People with insomnia have more medical problems and use more medications than those without insomnia, and they have double the number of office visits and hospitalizations as those without insomnia.[6,43]

The relative contribution of insomnia and comorbid conditions to these costs remains unclear. Indirect costs of insomnia are even less clear. In 1994, the economic costs of insomnia were estimated at $80 billion annually.[44,45] These indirect cost estimates are higher than those for other chronic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis,[46] but there are limited data available to reliably estimate the indirect costs of insomnia.

Effects of Insomnia on Functioning and Quality of Life

Sleep loss does result in impaired psychomotor and cognitive functioning, but these impairments are less pronounced for insomnia.[47] Despite the equivocal impact of insomnia on memory and cognitive functioning, insomnia is related to occupational role dysfunction, including increased absenteeism and decreased work performance.[4,43] These daytime impairments, however, may be more related to the chronic hyperarousal state[48] or to perceptions of sleep deprivation[49] than to actual sleep loss from insomnia.

In considering the consequences of insomnia, it is important to differentiate being sleepy from being tired or fatigued. Sleepiness involves recurrent episodes of being drowsy and involuntarily falling asleep in nonstimulating environments (ie, dozing off). Sleepiness is more often associated with other primary sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and periodic limb movement disorder. In contrast, those with insomnia are often tired or fatigued but not sleepy.[48,50]

Insomnia is associated with substantial impairments in quality of life. Although insomnia is often considered more benign than most other chronic medical and psychiatric disorders, the impairments in quality of life in insomnia are comparable to those observed in diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease.[5] Quality of life also improves with treatment for insomnia, although not to the level of the normal population.[51]

Insomnia is associated with substantial impairments in quality of life that are comparable to the impairments observed in other chronic medical disorders.

Comorbidities and Morbidities

Approximately 40% of adults with insomnia also have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder.[16] In addition, approximately three quarters of people presenting to sleep clinics or general medical practices with insomnia have a comorbid psychiatric disorder.[52] Although there are a number of psychiatric disorders that are comorbid with insomnia (eg, generalized anxiety disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and schizophrenia), depression has received the most attention. Insomnia was once considered only a symptom of depression or secondary to depression. Recent research, however, has consistently shown that insomnia is a predisposing factor for depression. Insomnia often occurs prior to the onset of depression,[53] and often precedes depression relapses.[54,55] Those with persistent insomnia are also much more likely to develop depression at a later time.[16,56] In addition to depression, insomnia is associated with an increased risk for suicide[57] and is a precipitant of manic episodes in those with bipolar disorder.[58]

Insomnia is common in other primary sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea (sleep-disordered breathing [SDB]), restless legs syndrome, and periodic limb movement disorder. In these cases, insomnia may be secondary or fully attributable to the underlying sleep disorder, but often is a comorbid disorder precipitated by the other primary sleep disorder but perpetuated by cognitive and conditioning factors.[59] SDB typically presents clinically with nonrestorative sleep complaints and disturbed sleep maintenance with normal sleep onset. Snoring and/or apnea episodes are often reported by the bed partners, but patients are typically unaware of their sleep-related symptoms. If positive indications of SDB are found during a clinical interview, then overnight sleep recording is typically performed to establish the diagnosis and determine its severity.[7,59] SDB may be exacerbated by benzodiazepines, so it is important to rule out this condition before proceeding with insomnia treatment.

A number of chronic medical conditions are associated with insomnia, including chronic pain syndromes, coronary heart disease, asthma, gastrointestinal disorders, vascular disorders, chronic fatigue, and endocrine and metabolic disorders.[7] In addition, substances, including caffeine, theophylline and other stimulants, steroids, antihypertensives, and antidepressants, can precipitate insomnia.[12]

Although many of the disorders comorbid with insomnia are associated with increased mortality rates, insomnia itself does not appear to be associated with higher mortality. In a recent longitudinal study, neither insomnia nor the use of hypnotics for insomnia increased the risk for mortality over a 6-year period.[60] Higher mortality has been associated with either too much or too little sleep, but not with insomnia disorder per se.[61,62]

Insomnia is frequently comorbid with psychiatric disorders, other primary sleep disorders, and chronic medical conditions.

What Treatments Are Used for the Management of Chronic Insomnia, and What Is the Evidence Regarding Their Safety, Efficacy, and Effectiveness?

Case Study: Part 2

The patient’s medical history reveals menopausal symptoms that were controlled on hormone replacement therapy and did not recur following discontinuation 3 years ago. Her insomnia symptoms, however, have continued and worsened in the past 5 years. The patient is otherwise healthy. She does not report pain at night, snoring or gasping for air during sleep, or restless legs. She does report awakening at least once a night to urinate, but indicates that she is sometimes unable to return to sleep after awakening.

The clinical interview reveals no other psychiatric disorder. She has no history of substance abuse or dependence, but does indicate that she has begun drinking a glass or 2 of wine at night to help her fall asleep. She describes primarily being unable to fall asleep, and says it takes her an hour or 2 to fall asleep most nights. She also describes awakening during the night, sometimes being unable to go back to sleep, and that these sleep-maintenance symptoms have worsened in the past 6 months. She reports hearing that older people can get by on less sleep, but that she feels tired and irritable after nights of inadequate sleep. She is beginning to believe that she is not functioning as well at work because of her sleep difficulties. She reports feeling particularly distressed in the evening as her bedtime approaches and worries whether she will get enough sleep to perform well the next day.

The patient is provided with general information about sleep and insomnia and reassured that her sleep difficulties can be managed. She is provided with a sleep diary and asked to record her sleep-wake patterns for 2 weeks and then to return with her husband to complete the evaluation.

At the second visit, her husband confirms that she does not snore loudly or excessively and does not appear to experience short bouts of not breathing while asleep. He reports that she does have difficulty going to sleep and will toss and turn for an hour or so before falling asleep. On 2-3 mornings each week, he wakes up and finds that she is not in bed but that she got up during the night and later fell asleep while watching television downstairs. On weekends, he usually lets her sleep in late. He reports that she is sometimes so tired after a bad night that she will come home from work and take a nap before dinner. Her sleep diary reveals an average sleep-onset latency of about 45 minutes each night, that she is awake for over an hour during the night on about half the nights, a mean total sleep time of 6 hours and 30 minutes per night, and a mean sleep efficiency of 82%.

Based on this assessment, what treatment approaches should be considered?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI) addresses the hyperarousal, cognitive, and conditioning factors that appear to perpetuate the disorder. CBTI typically consists of 5 major components:[38]

  • Sleep-hygiene strategies to promote a sleep environment and routine that promote sleep.
  • Relaxation therapy (progressive muscle relaxation, visual imagery, etc) to reduce physiologic arousal.
  • Cognitive restructuring to change dysfunctional attitudes about sleep (eg, attempting to will oneself to sleep or excessive worrying about the effects of not sleeping).
  • Stimulus control to reassociate the bed and bedroom with going to sleep instead of staying awake. These instructions include (1) going to bed only when sleepy, (2) establishing a standard wake-up time, (3) getting out of bed whenever awake in bed for 15 minutes or more, (4) avoiding doing sleep-incompatible behaviors (reading or watching television) while in bed, and (5) refraining from daytime napping.
  • Sleep restriction to condense time in bed to the average time typically asleep. For this component, the time to bed is set based on the average time asleep but not less than 5 hours, and then it is gradually increased as sleep efficiencies improve.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine Task Force on nondrug alternatives for primary chronic insomnia[63] found that CBTI produced reliable and durable improvement in chronic insomnia. Nearly 80% of those treated with CBTI show measurable benefit, but the magnitude of the benefit varies. CBTI produces objective improvements as well as subjective improvements in sleep and appears to improve homeostatic sleep regulation.[64] Although most of the research on CBTI is with primary insomnia, CBTI has been shown to produce benefits for the comorbid condition as well as for the insomnia.[65]

Sleep hygiene is the component of CBTI that is most often provided by healthcare providers,[66] and patients tend to like and adhere to sleep-hygiene strategies.[67] Unfortunately, sleep hygiene appears to be the least effective CBTI component. Stimulus control and sleep restriction are the most effective CBTI components,[68] but patients have the most difficulty adhering to these components.[67]

When CBTI is compared with medications, sedative hypnotics appear to produce more rapid improvements, but the long-term safety and efficacy of sedative hypnotics are less well established than CBTI.[69,70] The efficacy of CBTI, particularly long-term, and the minimal apparent adverse effects of this treatment have resulted in it being considered a first-line treatment for primary insomnia.[70]

Challenges with CBTI. Although CBTI is clearly efficacious, accessibility to this treatment has been severely limited by a general lack of knowledge regarding efficacy, inadequate coverage of this treatment by insurance carriers, and a lack of professionals trained in CBTI, even at certified sleep disorder centers.[38] The treatment is generally well accepted by patients when they are provided this option,[71] and the treatment is relatively short. Although session dosage remains unclear, Edinger and Means[38] have suggested that 4 sessions at 2-week intervals may be optimal based on their review of this treatment approach.

To increase availability, researchers have experimented with alternative methods of CBTI treatment delivery. Treatment delivery in individual, group, or phone-based sessions appears to be equally helpful.[72] Although self-help interventions appear less effective than professional assistance, self-help versions of CBTI still provide modest benefit over controls.[73] Delivery of CBTI via the Internet and other technologies is a promising new approach area for potentially improving the accessibility of this efficacious treatment for insomnia.[74]

Although CBTI is not typically provided by primary care health professionals, recent efforts show this to be another potential strategy for providing this treatment to those with insomnia. Indeed, allied healthcare providers have been trained to deliver CBTI with some success.[75] Recently, Edinger and Sampson[76] devised a “primary care friendly” form of CBTI. This abbreviated form of CBTI involves two 25-minute sessions 2 weeks apart. Session 1 consists of reviewing sleep logs and providing sleep education, stimulus control, and sleep-restriction instructions, such as eliminating activities that are incompatible with sleep, avoiding daytime naps, and setting up a consistent sleep-wake schedule (including sleep restriction). Session 2 consists of reviewing progress, addressing adherence difficulties, and modifying sleep strategies accordingly. This abbreviated treatment was significantly better than sleep-hygiene instructions alone for most insomnia measures and resulted in reductions of insomnia symptoms to normal levels in over half of patients.[76]

Although CBTI is efficacious, accessibility to this treatment has been severely limited by a general lack of knowledge regarding efficacy, inadequate coverage of this treatment by insurance carriers, and a lack of professionals trained in CBTI, even at certified sleep disorder centers.

US Food and Drug Administration-Approved Medications

Benzodiazepine and nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics. Both benzodiazepine and nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics have been approved for the treatment of insomnia.

Benzodiazepine hypnotics. The benzodiazepine hypnotics approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of insomnia are estazolam, flurazepam, quazepam, temazepam, and triazolam. These medications have been found effective in a number of double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, but these trials have typically been short-term (4-6 weeks).[77] Even with longer term use, there is a reduced effect after 4-8 weeks.[78] Except for triazolam, these benzodiazepine hypnotics have long half-lives, which contribute to their efficacy for maintaining sleep, but also result in higher rates of next-day impairments, such as morning sedation, cognitive impairment, and motor incoordination.[79] Temazepam is the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine hypnotic,[80] but, despite its long half-life, it appears to have minimal impact on number of awakenings, and produces tolerance, morning sedation, and cognitive impairment.[8] Triazolam, the only short half-life agent in this group, has more of an impact on sleep onset than maintenance, but possible amnestic effects have been a concern.[81,82]

Except in those with a history of substance abuse, abuse liability from these benzodiazepine hypnotics appears to be minimal.[83] However, due to concerns about abuse liability, the FDA has indicated that these medications should be limited to 7-10 days of use with reevaluation if used for more than 2-3 weeks. Some have argued that these limitations were based on now obsolete guidelines,[84] and that longer term use may not increase the risk for abuse liability,[85] but the long-term effects of these medications on tolerance and abuse liability require further study.

Nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics. Nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics are a new class of hypnotics that act on specific benzodiazepine receptor subtypes, but have a nonbenzodiazepine structure. Three nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics — zaleplon, zolpidem, and eszopiclone — have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of insomnia. As a class, these medications generally have shorter half-lives than their benzodiazepine predecessors, which results in greater effects on sleep onset than sleep maintenance and minimal morning sedation and other daytime impairments. Nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics also may have less abuse liability potential than benzodiazepine hypnotics, although further research is needed.[86]

Zolpidem is the most commonly prescribed agent for insomnia,[80] and due to its rapid onset and short half-life (1.5-4 hours), it has more of an effect on sleep onset than sleep maintenance.[87] Modified-release formulations may provide better sleep-maintenance effects, but data on these formulations are still needed.[88] Efficacy data do not extend beyond 1-2 months, so the effects of longer term use are unknown.[89]

Zaleplon has a very short half-life of only about 1 hour and, therefore, affects primarily sleep onset.[90] Higher doses may affect sleep maintenance and may increase the risk for side effects.[91] Although studies of zaleplon have been of longer duration than zolpidem, long-term safety and efficacy beyond 1-3 months have not been established.[92,93]

Eszopiclone is the newest medication in this group, and it has the longest half-life (5-6 hours). Studies show that this half-life appears adequate to produce effects on sleep maintenance as well as sleep onset while also resulting in minimal morning sedation.[94,95] Eszopiclone does not have a limitation on duration of use, and recent findings have shown efficacy and safety with minimal tolerance or abuse liability over 12 months of use.[96]

As a group, these medications appear to produce minimal sedation effects or psychomotor impairment.[97,98] These reduced side effects relative to benzodiazepine hypnotics appear to be due to their short half-lives more so than their selective receptor agonist effects.[99] Nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics also may produce potentially fewer or less severe drug interactions than many of the benzodiazepine hypnotics because they rely less exclusively on CYP3A4 metabolism.[100] Substantial proportions of these medications, however, are still metabolized through CYP3A4; so these medications, as is the case with the most traditional benzodiazepine hypnotics, should be carefully monitored if CYP inducers (rifampicin) or CYP3A4 inhibitors (ketoconazole, erythromycin, and cimetidine) are also being prescribed.[100] Alcohol also potentiates the effects of all hypnotics, so patients should be instructed not to drink, and if they do, to understand that they will feel more sedated the next morning, potentially affecting their ability to drive.

Medications for insomnia are typically taken every night on a prophylactic basis to manage insomnia. Due to the rapid onset and minimal abuse liability of nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics, nonnightly or as-needed use has been considered and appears safe and efficacious in preliminary trials.[101] Further trials, however, are needed to substantiate the safety and efficacy of long-term, nonnightly administration.

Nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics have shorter half-lives, which result in greater effects on sleep onset than sleep maintenance and minimal morning sedation and other daytime impairments. They may also be associated with fewer or less severe drug interactions, and may have less abuse liability than benzodiazepine hypnotics.

Discontinuation of hypnotics. Little research has been conducted on the persistence or reappearance of symptoms after prescription therapy is discontinued. Discontinuation of hypnotics, whether benzodiazepine or nonbenzodiazepine, generally results in relapse of symptoms. Many of the benzodiazepines also produce rebound insomnia, insomnia that is worse than pretreatment levels, for a few days. Rebound insomnia also may be reduced with the newer nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics, although further research is needed.[78] CBTI has been used to reduce relapse rates after benzodiazepine discontinuation.[102]

Melatonin receptor agonists. The FDA recently approved ramelteon for the treatment of chronic insomnia. Ramelteon is a selective melatonin receptor agonist (MT1, MT2) that is rapidly absorbed (< 1 hour) and has a relatively short half-life (2-5 hours). Initial studies of ramelteon have shown reduced sleep-onset latency compared with placebo, with a low rate of side effects and adverse events.[103] Abuse liability also appears to be minimal. Ramelteon should not be prescribed concomitantly with strong CYP1A2 inhibitors, such as fluvoxamine. Although ramelteon is a promising alternative to sedative-hypnotics, further research on its safety and efficacy, particularly long-term, is needed.

Prescription Drugs Without FDA Approval for Insomnia

Trazodone is one of the most commonly prescribed medications for the treatment of insomnia, comparable to zolpidem.[80] The low cost of antidepressant medications along with unrestricted long-term use and minimal abuse liability may be factors leading to the increased use of these medications for insomnia.

Trazodone is sedating, but there is a paucity of data on its effects on insomnia. Research has usually been performed with small, comorbid, depressed samples with short and equivocal effects on sleep.[104,105] Trazodone can have significant side effects, including orthostatic hypotension, blurred vision, nausea, dry mouth, constipation, drowsiness, headache, and (rarely) priapism. These side effects also increase the risk for falls and accidents, which can have serious consequences in the elderly. Although these risks are less pronounced at the lower doses typically used for insomnia, the risk-benefit ratio may be too great in some situations to use trazodone for insomnia.[106] There are also limited data on the short-term effects of doxepin[107] for insomnia. The potential adverse effects from trazadone, doxepin, and other antidepressants overshadow the limited efficacy data on these medications. Dose-response relationships of antidepressants for insomnia also are poorly understood.[108,109]

The SOS Conference Statement notes that various other medications have been used in the treatment of insomnia, including barbiturates (phenobarbital) and antipsychotics (quetiapine and olanzapine). These medications, however, have serious side effects and adverse risks with little to no data supporting their efficacy. Therefore, these medications are not recommended for the treatment of insomnia.

According to the SOS Conference Statement, the risk-benefit ratio may be too great in some situations to use trazodone or other antidepressants for the treatment of insomnia. In addition, barbiturates (phenobarbital) and antipsychotics are not recommended for the treatment of insomnia.

Over-the-Counter Medications

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are frequently used for insomnia. About one fourth of US adults with sleep difficulties use OTC sleep aids.[110]

Antihistamines (H1 receptor agonists, such as diphenhydramine) are the most commonly used OTC medications for insomnia. There is, however, no systematic evidence of efficacy for insomnia, and there are significant side effects, including dry mouth, blurred vision, urinary retention, constipation, and a risk for increased intraocular pressure in patients with narrow angle glaucoma.[111]

Alcohol is often used to reduce sleep-onset latency. Although alcohol does reduce sleep latency, it also results in poorer quality sleep and nighttime awakening. Alcohol also is clearly not appropriate for someone with a risk for substance use. Therefore, alcohol cannot be recommended as a sleep aid.[112]

Melatonin is a natural hormone that is produced by the pineal gland that has a role in circadian rhythm control. Melatonin may be helpful for reducing symptoms of jet lag, but there is minimal evidence of efficacy for insomnia. Melatonin appears to be safe for short-term use, but long-term safety is unknown. Except for the recently FDA-approved ramelteon, melatonin compounds are unregulated, and preparations may vary.[113]

L-tryptophan is an endogenous amino acid sometimes used as a hypnotic. Evidence of efficacy for insomnia, however, is extremely limited and there are possible toxic interaction effects with some psychiatric medications.[114]

Valerian is derived from the valeriana plant root and thought to promote sleep, but there is no proven benefit for insomnia. Valerian is unregulated and possibly associated with hepatotoxicity. Other herbal products are sometimes used for insomnia, but there are no data supporting their efficacy and there are similar concerns about safety and drug interactions.[115]

Other alternative treatments, such as tai chi, yoga, acupuncture, and light therapy, have been used to treat insomnia, but they have not been adequately evaluated.[114,116]

OTC products, alternative treatments, and complementary therapies are often used to treat insomnia. These therapies, however, have not been systematically evaluated; efficacy data are lacking; and there are concerns about side effects.

Case Study: Part 3

Following the clinical assessment, the patient is advised regarding treatment approaches. Although menopausal symptoms appear to have been a precipitant of the insomnia, these symptoms have resolved and no longer appear to be related to the insomnia. The patient is counseled about cognitive behavioral and sedative-hypnotic approaches for insomnia. Given the minimal risks, she would prefer to try CBTI first, but the nearest specialist with expertise in CBTI is 2 hours away. Therefore, she agrees to try one of the newer sedative-hypnotics and to obtain an abbreviated form of CBTI from the nurse practitioner who has some limited training in this approach.

Because she presents with both sleep-onset and sleep-maintenance difficulties, and may require long-term medication use to control her insomnia, she is started on an agent appropriate for long-term administration immediately before bed each night, and advised that it may be necessary to increase her prescription if her sleep difficulties, particularly sleep maintenance difficulties, persist.

The patient meets with the nurse practitioner who provides information about sleep hygiene and instructs her to refrain from using alcohol to fall asleep, particularly in combination with her medication. A consistent wake time of 7:00 am is agreed to and a time to bed of 12:30 am is determined based on her average time asleep from her sleep diaries. The patient is concerned that she may be more tired than usual if she goes to bed this late, but is reassured that she will be getting the same amount of sleep as she usually does, just more consolidated. She is also instructed to get out of bed if she does not fall asleep within 15 minutes, to do something restful, and then return to bed when she feels sleepy again. She is assured that she can function adequately the next day if she does not get much sleep, which she has been doing for years, and that she can only control getting in and out of bed, not if and when she falls asleep while in bed. She is encouraged not to take naps and to maintain her regular wake time even if she did not sleep well the night before or can sleep later that morning.

After 2 weeks, the patient’s sleep diary shows that she has generally adhered to her new sleep schedule and that her sleep efficiencies are above 90% as a result of her bedtime restrictions. She is instructed to adjust her bedtime 15 minutes earlier and to readjust her bedtime earlier each week if her sleep efficiencies average above 90%. She is encouraged to continue the strategies that appear to be working, particularly maintaining a consistent bedtime, not taking naps, and getting out of bed if she is unable to fall asleep.

At a follow-up visit 1 month later, the patient reports sleeping well and feeling rested although her total sleep time is only 7.5 hours, less than she thought was adequate. She is reassured that sleep needs change over time and that her sense of feeling rested and restored is more important than how much sleep she gets. She is encouraged to continue the CBTI strategies that she has found helpful thus far. She wonders whether the medication is still needed to control her sleep. She is instructed to shift from taking it every night to taking it as needed after getting out bed if she is unable to fall asleep within 15 minutes.

At a follow-up visit 3 months later, the patient reports that she no longer takes the medication for sleep, that she continues to get about 7.5 hours of sleep per night with little to no difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, and that she feels rested and refreshed most mornings.

What Are Important Directions for Insomnia-Related Research?

Based on what is known about the manifestations and management of insomnia, the SOS Conference Panel made a number of recommendations for future research needs:[9]

  1. Developing and validating instruments to assess chronic insomnia, particularly measures of outcome and diurnal consequences;
  2. Conducting more research on possible genetic and neural mechanisms of insomnia;
  3. Conducting longitudinal observational studies to better understand the incidence, course, and correlates of insomnia, including the adoption of sleep-disturbance items in national health survey research;
  4. Obtaining more information on the impact of insomnia on quality of life and the indirect and direct impact on individuals, caregivers, and society as a whole;
  5. Providing better estimates of the cost of illness to determine cost-effectiveness of treatments;
  6. Obtaining more long-term outcome data, particularly following discontinuation of treatment;
  7. Performing large-scale, multisite comparative treatment trials, including studies of the efficacy of combined or sequenced administration of medications and CBTI;
  8. Conducting more research on OTC and alternative remedies for insomnia;
  9. Conducting efficacy trials in subpopulations, such as children, nursing home residents, and postmenopausal women, and in those with comorbid as well as primary chronic insomnia; and
  10. Assessing clinician decision making with insomnia patients; although much is known that can inform clinical decision making, much more research is needed in this area.

Conclusions

Insomnia is a major public health problem affecting millions of individuals, their families, and their communities. Little is known about etiologic mechanisms, but hyperarousal, cognitive processes, and behavioral conditioning have some support as possible factors. Current evidence supports the efficacy of CBTI and sedative-hypnotics for the treatment of insomnia. Despite widespread use, there is very little evidence supporting the use of other treatments, such as antidepressants and OTC agents, for the treatment of insomnia.

Although there are a number of efficacious medications for insomnia, the SOS Conference Panel noted concern about the mismatch between the chronic, long-term nature of the disorder and the short duration of most clinical trials. Only eszopiclone has been evaluated in trials lasting 6-12 months. Newer medications not yet approved, such as indiplon (a short-acting nonbenzodiazepine hypnotic), provide additional options for the treatment of chronic insomnia, but there remains a clear need for new and more targeted drug therapies that can be used safely and effectively long-term. CBTI shows promising long-term effects with minimal safety concerns, and accessibility to this treatment option should be expanded.

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Managing Adverse Effects to Optimize Treatment for ADHD

In ADHD, ADHD Adult, ADHD child/adolescent, ADHD stimulant treatment, Medication, Psychiatry, School Psychology on Sunday, 16 September 2012 at 10:35

Managing Adverse Effects to Optimize Treatment for ADHD

http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/583252

Introduction

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) begins in early childhood, and at least 50% of children will go on to have symptoms and impairment in adulthood.[1] Treatment requires a combination of medication and counseling, and adherence to medication therapy is essential for good outcomes. Managing adverse effects is a key component of effective treatment. Diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric comorbidity, which is common, is another essential aspect of care. This review will examine common adverse effects, prescribing medication successfully, deciding when to switch to an alternative medication, and some aspects of using concomitant medication.

Initiating Treatment

Diagnosis

According to the text revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR), the diagnosis of ADHD requires symptom onset before age 7 years. When evaluating children, parent and teacher input is essential and easy to obtain. Although some investigators have suggested that adult-onset ADHD is possible,[2] a full evaluation of an adult involves attempts to document symptoms and impairment in childhood. Interviews with parents and examination of school or medical records are often helpful.

Monitoring treatment success requires documentation of baseline functional impairment. In adults, collateral interviews with partners or even coworkers, with the patient’s permission, may be illuminating. Adults with ADHD experience important consequences from their impaired functioning. In a case-control study of 500 adults, those with ADHD had lower educational attainment, less job stability, lower incomes, and less successful relationships.[3] The evaluating clinician should investigate all of these areas.

The other essential aspect of evaluation is screening for comorbidity. In many cases, ADHD is not the chief complaint but comes to light during evaluation of another symptom. The most prevalent comorbid conditions are depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.[4] Substance-use disorders including nicotine dependence are also more common in people with ADHD than in the general population.

Patient Education

Once the diagnosis is established, the physician should explain the implications and the proposed treatment plan. Educating patients and families about both the therapeutic and adverse effects of pharmacotherapy will help them know what to expect. Describing the benefits of treatment, including possible improvements in psychosocial outcomes, will allow a fully informed decision.

After learning about the side-effect profile of psychostimulants, a few patients who are ambivalent about medication may reject that treatment option. Nonstimulants should also be discussed to provide the full range of options, but the clinician should mention the trade-off of lower efficacy of nonstimulants compared with psychostimulants.[5] Once a patient has consented to a specific medication, the physician should explain the minimum trial duration necessary to determine a response and the dose-adjustment schedule. Clearly worded written information about the medication is usually appreciated by patients and their families. The informed-consent process should be documented.

Managing Adverse Effects

The common adverse effects of treatment are inherent in the pharmacodynamics of stimulant medication. Enhanced catecholamine neurotransmission in the central and autonomic nervous systems can cause insomnia, anorexia, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. These effects are most noticeable at the outset of treatment and after increases in dose. Patients often adjust to them during the ensuing weeks but may require encouragement during that interval.

Insomnia

Studies show that adults and children with untreated ADHD experience sleep anomalies compared with control subjects. A review of sleep studies of unmedicated children found evidence of more nocturnal motor activity and daytime somnolence compared with controls.[6] An actigraphic study of 33 adults with ADHD and 39 control subjects found similar differences between the groups at baseline, and sleep latency was prolonged in the ADHD subjects.[7] After treatment with methylphenidate, the adult patients continued to experience prolonged sleep latency and less total sleep duration, but sleep efficiency improved.

In a study that used the most comprehensive method of evaluating sleep, polysomnography in a sleep lab, 34 untreated adults with ADHD had increased nocturnal activity, reduced sleep efficiency, more awakenings, and reduced REM sleep compared with control subjects.[8] For 10 patients who were treated with open-label methylphenidate, repeat polysomnography showed better sleep efficiency, and the patients also reported improved restorative value of sleep.

Clinicians can conclude from these studies that the effect of medication on sleep may be beneficial in at least some patients, but further research with more subjects and with a variety of medications is needed. The fact remains that many patients treated with psychostimulants complain of initial insomnia, so an approach to manage this problem is necessary. Clinicians should document sleep patterns and complaints before treatment to help interpret problems that may arise after medication is prescribed.

Sleep hygiene, consisting of simple behavioral approaches to promote sound sleep (eg, creating a restful environment and avoiding caffeine), is an inexpensive intervention for all patients with insomnia. In a study of initial insomnia in 27 children 6-14 years treated for ADHD with psychostimulants, the researchers provided a sleep hygiene intervention to which 5 of the children responded.[9] They randomly assigned the nonresponders to either 5 mg of melatonin or placebo. Adverse effects of placebo and melatonin were not significantly different. The investigators found the combination of sleep hygiene and melatonin to be safe and effective, with an effect size of 1.7.

Although comparable randomized, controlled trial data do not exist for adults, mirtazapine has been reported as safe and effective for adults taking psychostimulants.[10]

Atomoxetine may have an effect on sleep that is different from that of psychostimulants, including reduced sleep latency but less efficiency. In a randomized, double-blinded, crossover trial, methylphenidate treatment for children with ADHD caused more initial insomnia but fewer awakenings compared with atomoxetine treatment.[11] Switching to atomoxetine may be considered for patients who prefer it or who do not respond to adjunctive interventions for stimulant-associated insomnia.

Appetite and Growth

Appetite reduction is common with psychostimulants and also can occur with nonstimulants, including atomoxetine and bupropion. This may be accompanied by nausea and abdominal pain in some patients. Some adults treated with psychostimulants may regard appetite suppression with resultant weight loss as beneficial. With long-acting stimulants, appetite returns later in the day.

Simple approaches to this problem include eating breakfast before taking medication. Having food in the stomach may also help reduce abdominal symptoms. Children in particular should have a nutritious, high-calorie snack in the evening if their food intake has been low since breakfast. However, parents should be warned to monitor evening intake of empty calories, such as candy and chips.

Weight loss or a downward shift of weight percentile is typical in children treated with psychostimulants. Short-term reduction in height growth rate during the initial 1-3 years of treatment with psychostimulants is well documented. In a literature review article, Poulton[12] concluded that a mean 1 cm/year deficit in height occurs during that interval. Less conclusive findings included a possible negative correlation between dose and growth, greater growth effect from dextroamphetamine than from methylphenidate, and rebound in growth of height and weight after discontinuation of stimulants.

More controversial is the effect on final stature. According to Poulton, “It would appear that most children achieve a satisfactory adult height, but there may be an important subgroup whose growth is permanently attenuated.”[12] Clinicians must discuss this with parents, many of whom will already have some concerns about the issue, and monitor children’s height and weight, ideally at each visit.

Research on atomoxetine is less comprehensive, but available evidence suggests a short-term downward shift in height and weight percentile. The effect on height may be minimal,[13] but longer-term studies are needed.

In a child or adult with worrisome weight loss, or if a child’s parents are anxious about growth deceleration, switching to another medication should be considered. Substituting methylphenidate for amphetamine would be more rational than substituting amphetamine for methylphenidate, but a nonstimulant is more likely to be ameliorative.

Affective Symptoms

Irritability, dysphoria, and (rarely) suicidal ideation can occur during treatment of ADHD.[14] Atomoxetine carries an FDA warning of a 0.4% incidence of suicidal ideation that has occurred in children during the first month of therapy.[15] No completed suicides have been reported, but discontinuation of atomoxetine is indicated if suicidal thoughts emerge. Minor mood changes and irritability occur with both psychostimulants and atomoxetine. Little evidence is available to guide intervention, but if the symptom is severe, the clinician may consider dose reduction, switching to an alternative psychostimulant, or trying an antidepressant nonstimulant such as bupropion or nortriptyline.

Psychosis and Mania

As dopamine transmission agonists, psychostimulants at excessive and prolonged doses would be expected to provoke psychotic symptoms or mania. These are well-reported but uncommon adverse effects during treatment in children, with an incidence estimated at 0.25%.[16] Emergent delusions, hallucinations, mania, or disorganized behavior requires treatment discontinuation. Most such symptoms resolve, but in a few cases, a bipolar disorder may be unmasked, which takes treatment priority.

Cardiovascular Effects

Psychostimulants cause increased heart rate and blood pressure in adults and children. The effect is mild in most cases, but in adults, some patients with borderline baseline blood pressure may develop frank hypertension. In a 24-month study of 223 adults treated with mixed amphetamine salts, 5 subjects developed hypertension and 2 experienced palpitations or tachycardia that required medication discontinuation.[17]

In a manufacturer-sponsored review of clinical-trial data, atomoxetine was found to cause small but clinically insignificant effects on blood pressure and heart rate in children, adolescents, and adults.[18] Treatment discontinuation for these effects was necessary only in a few adults. In managing any patient on psychostimulants or atomoxetine, clinicians should document pulse rate and blood pressure at baseline and every 6 months, with more frequent monitoring of patients with elevated risk for hypertension.

A more controversial aspect of ADHD medications is the effect on cardiac conduction and the rare occurrence of sudden death. In an unpublished review of documented cases of sudden death in children and adults treated with stimulants or atomoxetine through 2005, many of these patients had an underlying cardiac anomaly discovered on autopsy or were taking other medications.[19] Furthermore, psychostimulants have little effect on the QTc interval. Data on atomoxetine are conflicting, with US trials suggesting no QTc effect.[14] A Europe-wide postmarketing surveillance study, however, found a small number of cases of QTc prolongation that resolved with medication discontinuation.[20]

Whether a baseline electrocardiogram (ECG) is necessary for every patient is a matter of debate among specialists. Dr. David Goodman, an ADHD researcher and clinician, recommends specific screening for cardiac risk.[21] The 5 items he inquires about are history of spontaneous syncope, exercise-induced syncope, exercise-induced chest pain, sudden death in family members age 30 years and younger, and a family history of structural or electrical abnormalities. An ECG — and in ambiguous situations, specialist consultation — would be appropriate before initiating medication in older adults or any patient with risk factors.

Complex Psychopharmacology

Because comorbidity is common with ADHD, clinicians may prescribe psychostimulants with other medications, such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or antipsychotics. In fact, experienced psychopharmacologists often prescribe psychostimulants adjunctively for adults with treatment-resistant depression. Atomoxetine metabolism and a small portion of amphetamine metabolism involve CYP2D6, so caution is appropriate when combining these medications with fluoxetine, paroxetine, or fluvoxamine, which inhibit the enzyme.

Tricyclic antidepressants have been safely prescribed with psychostimulants, although several case reports exist of increased adverse effects with the combination of imipramine and methylphenidate.[22] Psychostimulants combined with monoamine oxidase inhibitors may cause a hypertensive crisis; coadministration is contraindicated.

The comorbidity of bipolar disorder and ADHD remains an area of active research and controversy. In a recent randomized, controlled trial, 40 children 6-17 years old with bipolar mania or hypomania and ADHD received divalproex for 8 weeks.[23] The 30 whose mood stabilized but who had active ADHD symptoms received mixed amphetamine salts. The researchers reported no significant adverse effects or worsening of mania. Similar controlled trials in adults are lacking, but in a retrospective study of 16 adult patients with bipolar disorder who were receiving methylphenidate, 5 patients had comorbid ADHD.[24] The others received a stimulant for depression. The patients were also taking various mood stabilizers, including divalproex, lithium, carbamazepine, lamotrigine, and second-generation antipsychotics. The investigators concluded that the practice was safe and effective, although “mild to moderate side effects” occurred, the single most common of which was irritability.

Conclusion

Initiating treatment with psychostimulants is no different from initiating other psychiatric medications. The key steps are:

  • Obtaining baseline data and, in exceptional cases, specialist consultation;
  • Educating patients and families about risks and benefits;
  • Documenting informed consent; and
  • Monitoring adverse effects and intervening as needed.

Rare adverse effects, such as jaundice, skin reactions, vasculitis, and thrombocytopenia, are idiosyncratic, and routine testing for them is not cost-effective.[14] Any unusual complaints should prompt further investigation. Regular documentation of pulse and blood pressure (and growth in children) is mandatory. Most adverse effects can be managed by reassurance or dose reduction, but switching to a different agent may at times be necessary. Combining medications for comorbidities is justifiable and often safe if diagnoses and rationale are well documented, but evidence of efficacy is not well established.

 

ADHD into Adolescence

In ADHD, ADHD child/adolescent, ADHD stimulant treatment, Medication, Neuropsychology, School Psychology on Friday, 14 September 2012 at 05:26

Adolescent ADHD: Diagnosis and Initial Treatment

Scott H. Kollins, PhD

http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/749104_2

ADHD Into Adolescence

Longitudinal studies demonstrate that ADHD is a disorder that children do not simply outgrow as they reach adolescence.[1-5] Follow-up studies of children with ADHD estimate that the diagnosis persists in 50% to 80% of cases.[1,6-10] Studies of clinically referred adolescents with ADHD also indicate that the disorder continues into adolescence and is associated with various functional impairments, particularly when compared with nondiagnosed peers, including social competence, behavioral and emotional adjustment, school performance, and general quality of life.[11,12]

Although ADHD as a disorder is continuous from childhood into adolescence,[13] the persistence of ADHD into adolescence needs to be considered in the context of adolescence as a period of development in which there are many changes at multiple levels, including physical, psychological, and social changes. During this developmental period, adolescents typically experience a growing influence of peers and independence from family members.[14] For adolescents with a disorder like ADHD in which social and emotional impairment is common,[15] this transitional period may be particularly difficult. Cognitive demands increase along with greater independence from adult supervision (eg, multiple teachers with different teaching styles, amount and scope of homework) as children enter into middle and high school,[11] which requires greater self-regulation, a quality that is often impaired in those with ADHD.

Neuronal and hormonal developmental changes during adolescence can further influence how symptoms are expressed.[14] Related to these biologically based changes, adolescence also is a critical period neurobiologically, with more risk-taking behavior and drug and alcohol use, which correspond with notable changes in motivational and reward-related brain regions. Such behaviors can be problematic because adolescents are naturally more sensitive to the positive rewarding properties of various drugs and natural stimuli and less sensitive to the aversive properties of these stimuli.[16] These behavioral and neurobiological developmental changes in concert with social, hormonal, and physiological changes place adolescents at high risk for substance use.[17,18] ADHD is an additional risk factor for such substance use behavior (reviewed in greater detail below) and thus places adolescents with ADHD at greater risk during this critical developmental period.

Given such developmental changes, the presentation of ADHD changes in adolescence as well, including symptom presentation; although inattentive symptoms continue to be involved in the clinical characteristics of most patients, hyperactive symptoms decline in severity for many.[7,19-21] This symptom presentation continues to cause functional impairment in domains typically impaired in childhood, including academics.[22]

Adolescents with ADHD smoke at significantly higher rates than peers without ADHD and start smoking earlier, demonstrate a higher level of nicotine dependence, and have greater difficulty quitting than youth without ADHD. Some studies have estimated that 25% to 75% of adolescents with ADHD meet diagnostic criteria for ODD or CD. Although mood disorders are often seen in adolescents with ADHD, with an incidence of roughly 10% to 20%, they are less common than DBD. ADHD may be evidence of more severe bipolar disease. For example, ADHD is more common in those with childhood-onset bipolar disorder, which suggests that in some cases ADHD may signal an earlier onset, more chronic bipolar disorder.

ADHD and Comorbid Conditions in Adolescence

Comorbidity within populations of adolescents with ADHD is typically the norm rather than the exception. For example, in one clinical sample of patients 6 to 18 years old, more than half met the criteria for at least one comorbid disorder.[23] Disruptive behavior disorders, including ODD and CD, are particularly common.[24] In general population studies, ADHD increases the odds of ODD or CD by 10.7-fold.[25] Some studies have estimated that 25% to 75% of adolescents with ADHD meet the diagnostic criteria for ODD or CD.[14] In another study, ODD was comorbid among 54% to 67% of clinically referred 7- to 15-year-old children with ADHD.[23] In this study, differences in subtypes also emerged. ODD was significantly more common among those with combined and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD subtypes (50.7% and 41.9%, respectively) than with inattentive subtype (20.8%). Such rates are concerning not only because of the characteristics of these comorbid disruptive behavior disorders (eg, delinquency) that are dealt with in adolescence, but also because CD is a precursor to antisocial personality disorder in adulthood. Given that CD is commonly seen in children with ADHD and is a precursor to antisocial personality disorder, it is not surprising that rates of antisocial personality disorder (among additional forms of Axis II psychopathology) are elevated in adults with ADHD.[4,5,10,26,27]

SUDs are also common in adolescents with ADHD. In longitudinal studies of hyperactive children, the risk for SUDs ranges from 12% to 24% into adulthood.[8,10,26] Because adolescence is a time when initial exposure to substances occurs and because adolescence is also a developmental period during which susceptibility to the reinforcing effects of substances is heightened,[16-18] substance use in adolescence is a concern both as an outcome of current use and of continued risk for future use. This risk is further elevated among adolescents with ADHD. Individuals with ADHD engage in experimentation earlier than children without ADHD.[28,29] Although such findings indicate that the relationship between ADHD and SUDs is independent of comorbidity, CD is a strong predictor of risk for SUDs among children with ADHD when they reach adolescence and adulthood.[30-32] In addition, prospective studies indicate that children with ADHD and co-occurring CD or bipolar disorder are at a higher risk for SUDs during adolescence.[33-35]

Adolescents with ADHD smoke at significantly higher rates than peers without ADHD. Prevalence rates range from 10% to 46% for adolescents with ADHD vs 10% to 24% for adolescents without ADHD.[34,36,37] Even among nonclinical patient samples, there is a linear relationship between number of ADHD symptoms, lifetime risk of smoking, and age of onset of regular smoking.[38] Additional studies have demonstrated that youth with ADHD initiate smoking earlier, exhibit a higher level of nicotine dependence, have greater difficulty quitting than youth without ADHD, and are at an increased risk for becoming a regular cigarette smoker.[37,39] In addition, the relationship between ADHD and tobacco use has remained significant as an independent risk factor after accounting for comorbidity, including CD.[40,41]

Mood disorders are also common among adolescents with ADHD.[42] For example, in one study, 21.6% of children 6 to 18 years old who had ADHD also had a depressive disorder.[23] The combination of a major depressive disorder and a comorbid disruptive behavior disorder is a risk factor for suicidal behavior,[43] and both major depressive disorder and disruptive behavior disorder are common comorbidities in those with ADHD. One longitudinal study assessing childhood ADHD reported that the diagnosis of ADHD in children predicted adolescent depression and/or suicide attempts. In addition, female sex, maternal depression, and concurrent symptoms in childhood predicted which children with ADHD were at greatest risk for these outcomes.[44]

Bipolar disorder is another disorder commonly seen in children with ADHD. Studies have estimated that bipolar disorder co-occurs among 10% to 20% of children and adolescents with ADHD.[45-47] Longitudinal studies of hyperactive children indicate a similar prevalence in adulthood,[5,10,26] although another longitudinal study of children with ADHD reported higher rates into adolescence (12%).[48] In some cases, ADHD may be evidence of more severe bipolar disorder. For example, ADHD is more common in cases of childhood-onset bipolar disorder, which suggests that in some cases ADHD may signal an earlier onset, more chronic bipolar disorder.[48] Regarding anxiety disorders, longitudinal studies of hyperactive children do not report significant elevations in comorbid anxiety disorders.[5,10,26] However, anxiety disorders have been reported in 10% to 40% of clinic-referred children and adolescents with ADHD.[23,49-51] Overall, these studies demonstrate that comorbidity is typical among adolescents with ADHD and further complicates its clinical presentation in adolescence. In addition to concerns about prognosis, such comorbidities can easily complicate issues related to assessment.

Assessment of Adolescents With ADHD

An empirically-based assessment of ADHD typically includes structured clinical interviews, standardized questionnaires, and a review of records, all in the context of diagnostic criteria.[14,52] Cognitive test performance may provide additional value when differentiating ADHD subtypes.[53] Although there is diagnostic continuity of ADHD from childhood into adolescence,[13] assessing ADHD during adolescence needs to be considered in the context of complicating factors. One such factor involves comorbidity. Comorbidity is common in adolescents with ADHD, and conditions can co-occur with ADHD or can mimic ADHD symptoms. Regarding the latter, a diminished ability to concentrate can also be a symptom of a major depressive episode, distractibility and being overly talkative can also be symptoms of a manic or hypomanic episode, and restlessness and difficulty concentrating can be symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.[54] Further, substance use can confound the assessment for ADHD, as alcohol and illicit drug use can create cognitive impairments that are also common in youth with ADHD.[55-57]

An additional factor that emerges in assessments of adolescent ADHD involves reporting source. In childhood ADHD assessments, parents and teachers are the typical reporters.[14] However, adolescents spend more time with peers and less time with parents. Further, in contrast to elementary school, adolescents have multiple teachers who spend less time with them during the school day and thus have fewer opportunities to observe their students’ behavior. Self-report methods can be incorporated into adolescent ADHD assessments as well; however, adolescents with ADHD have a tendency to underreport the severity of their symptoms,[7,58] which should be considered in any assessment. In adolescents with ADHD, concerns about the accuracy of self-report involve not only their account of ADHD symptoms, but of past delinquent behaviors as well. In one study, adolescents and young adults with ADHD were less likely than those without ADHD to report accurately on delinquent behaviors they engaged in 1 year earlier.[59] Such inaccurate reporting of behavior in ADHD is consistent with findings that persons with ADHD have a tendency toward a positive illusory bias view of their behavior[60] and with theories of ADHD that argue that problems with self-awareness emerge from working memory impairments.[61]

Developmental changes in the presentation of ADHD symptoms also have implications for self-report in the assessment of adolescents with ADHD. In particular, the decline in overt hyperactive symptoms into adolescence[7,19,21,22] makes inattentive symptoms more prominent. As a clinical observation, inattentive features common in ADHD may be experienced more subjectively (eg, daydreaming) than more overt hyperactive behaviors (eg, getting out of one’s seat at inappropriate times), thus making self-report more relevant in this age group.

Finally, the appropriateness of diagnostic criteria for ADHD complicates adolescent assessment. Specifically, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth edition, Text Revision [54] states that symptom onset must have occurred by age 7 to qualify for an ADHD diagnosis. However, studies addressing the empiric basis for this criterion have called it into question and recommend a revision to include childhood onset at or before age 12.[39,62-64] One study assessing the implications of this diagnostic revision in a large longitudinal sample found that the prevalence estimate, correlates, and risk factors of ADHD would not be affected if this new diagnostic criterion were adopted.[65] Thus, although following diagnostic criteria in adolescent ADHD assessments is recommended, incorporating these more recent findings may be crucial in making a diagnosis.

Treatment of ADHD in Adolescence

Relatively less research has been devoted to efficacious treatments for adolescents with ADHD compared with treatments for children with ADHD.[66] Despite diagnostic continuity, given the physical, social, and psychological changes that occur in adolescents with ADHD, it is somewhat difficult to simply extend childhood treatments to this group. ADHD treatments in this age group are likely to require more extensive and costly interventions. Further, treating adolescents is particularly challenging because they are less likely than children to receive mental health services in the first place.[67]

ADHD treatment is focused on symptom management and the reduction of downstream effects of unmanaged ADHD, such as school failure, automobile accidents, and peer rejection.[68] The more complex academic and social demands during adolescence require a management plan that addresses academic needs throughout the school day and into the evening, as well as weekday and weekend activities including driving, athletic and artistic endeavors, and family and peer relationships. Symptom management should be analogous to symptom management for any lifelong condition, such as nearsightedness, diabetes, or asthma. Such comparisons emphasize that ADHD is not the fault of the person with the disorder but rather a neurobiological condition, and making such comparisons may help the teen deal with any stigma associated with a psychiatric disorder.[69]

For children with ADHD, psychoeducation about ADHD, psychopharmacology (primarily stimulants), parent training in behavior management methods, classroom behavioral modification and academic interventions, and special educational placement are the most effective or promising interventions.[68] The empiric literature regarding extending these treatments into adolescence is much less prevalent, however. Thus, although treatment options for adolescent ADHD may be available, not all are equally effective and in many cases well-controlled studies are lacking. However, some treatments for adolescents with ADHD and their families do have empiric support, particularly pharmacotherapy and specific psychosocial treatment approaches.[68,70]

Although the stimulants and nonstimulants used for the treatment of ADHD can cause minor changes in blood pressure and heart rate, most analyses of studies of cardiac events and sudden death in children, youth, and adults with ADHD treated with stimulants have not found a higher incidence of these events in patients without preexisting structural cardiovascular conditions or a family history of sudden death.[71,72] Therefore, only routine assessment of cardiovascular function, similar to screening for participation in school sports, is recommended.

Current guidelines and consensus statements[71,72] do not recommend specialty cardiovascular screening (including routine electrocardiogram) before initiating treatment for ADHD, either with stimulants or nonstimulants. However, because these medications are known to cause small elevations in blood pressure and pulse (in the case of stimulants and atomoxetine) or hypotensive changes (in the case of the alpha-2 agonists), blood pressure and heart rate should be checked before treatment is started and should be monitored regularly at follow-up visits.

Pharmacotherapy

Stimulant medications. Stimulants and noradrenergic agonists are psychotropic treatments approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in adolescents. Stimulants include methylphenidates and amphetamine compounds; these medications have a long-standing history in the treatment of ADHD and are considered the first-line therapies for ADHD.[73] The 2 classes of stimulants have slightly differing mechanisms of action. Whereas both block the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine into the presynaptic neuron and thereby increase neurotransmitter concentrations, amphetamine compounds also increase the release of dopamine from presynaptic cytoplasmic storage vesicles.[74]

Stimulants are effective in approximately 70% of adolescents with ADHD.[75-77] At least 7 randomized controlled trials have been conducted among adolescents with ADHD and all but one support the efficacy of stimulants for ADHD in adolescence.[74] Consistent with findings of diagnostic continuity of ADHD from childhood into adolescence, the efficacy of stimulants (specifically, methylphenidate) is largely equal from childhood into adolescence.[78] In a meta-analysis of children and adolescents comparing the efficacy of the methylphenidates and amphetamine compounds, amphetamine compounds had a small yet statistically significant advantage over a standard-release form of methylphenidate for parent and clinicians ratings of ADHD symptoms and global ratings (but not for teacher ratings).[79] Although stimulants are effective in acutely reducing ADHD symptoms, common medication side effects (eg, decreased appetite) have prompted consideration of other pharmacologic interventions.[80]

Nonstimulant medications. Noradrenergic agonists approved by the FDA for use in children and adolescents with ADHD include guanfacine extended release (XR), clonidine modified release (MR),[81] and atomoxetine. Although the precise mechanism of action for treating ADHD is unclear, these medications likely facilitate dopamine and noradrenaline neurotransmission thought to play a role in the pathophysiology of ADHD.[81,82]

In 2009, guanfacine XR was the first alpha-2 agent to be approved by the FDA for use in the treatment of ADHD in children and adolescents. According to one randomized controlled trial in children and adolescents with ADHD, guanfacine XR performed better than placebo in reducing teacher-rated ADHD symptoms but not parent-rated ADHD symptoms.[83] In several double-blind, placebo-controlled trials involving child and adolescent participants, guanfacine XR performed significantly better than placebo in reducing ADHD symptoms.[84,85] A 2-year, open-label, follow-up study of guanfacine XR in children and adolescents, with or without co-administration of stimulants, demonstrated continued efficacy as that seen in short-term randomized controlled trials.[86] Such findings emerged in a similar study,[87] although the attrition rate in both studies was greater than 75%, limiting generalizability.

Two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies evaluating the efficacy of clonidine MR in children and adolescents with ADHD have been conducted. One assessed clonidine MR as a monotherapy, and another studied it as an add-on agent in patients on a non-optimal stimulant drug regimen. In both trials, clonidine MR significantly reduced ADHD symptoms from baseline and was well tolerated.[88,89]

Atomoxetine is another noradrenergic agonist approved for use in adolescents with ADHD,[90-92] and it has comparable efficacy with methylphenidate in reducing core ADHD symptoms in children and adolescents.[93] In one randomized, placebo-controlled, dose-response study of atomoxetine in children and adolescents with ADHD, atomoxetine was consistently associated with a significant reduction of ADHD symptoms.[94] Social and family functioning also improved among those taking atomoxetine with statistically significant improvements in measures of ability to meet psychosocial role expectations and parental impact. In a randomized, placebo-controlled study of atomoxetine among children and adolescents with ADHD, atomoxetine-treated participant reductions in ADHD symptoms were superior to those of the placebo treatment group as assessed by investigator, parent, and teacher ratings.[95] Additional trials have demonstrated the efficacy and tolerability of this medication in children and adolescents with ADHD.[96-101] In addition, acute atomoxetine treatment appears to be equally effective and equally tolerated in children and adolescents.[102] Such findings suggest that pharmacologic differences in tolerability or ADHD symptom response are negligible between children and adolescents.

Treatment Discontinuation in Adolescence

When considering pharmacotherapy, one issue relevant to adolescents with ADHD involves treatment discontinuation. The prevalence of prescribing by general practitioners to adolescent patients with ADHD drops significantly.[103] Further, this decline is greater than the reported age-related decline in symptoms, indicating that treatment is prematurely discontinued in many cases when symptoms persist.[104] In one longitudinal study,[105] 48% of children between the ages of 9 and 15 had discontinued ADHD medication. Age was a significant moderator of medication adherence such that adolescents were less likely to continue their medication.[105] Thus, in addition to a need for continued research devoted to effective treatments for adolescents with ADHD,[66] unique barriers to treatment such as premature discontinuation need to be addressed.

Psychosocial Treatments

In terms of psychosocial treatments for adolescents with ADHD, the empiric literature is sparse compared with the literature on pharmacotherapy options. In addition, because of the many developmental and environmental changes that occur during the transition into adolescence, childhood treatments are not easily translated for this age group. Developmental changes with implications for treatment include that adolescents have a greater cognitive capacity for abstraction, they have more behavioral self-awareness, adolescents are undergoing identity formation and have a need for independence, there is peer influence, there is variability in daily school routines, and adolescents are undergoing physiologic changes (eg, development of secondary sex characteristics).[66] Thus, treatment approaches are recommended that include increased involvement of the teenager, behavioral contingencies that involve more opportunities to socialize with peers and exert independence, collaboration with multiple teachers, homework issues (particularly time management and organizational skills), and self-monitoring strategies.[44] Among studies that have considered psychosocial treatments for adolescents with ADHD, family-based and school-based approaches are the most promising.[44,106]

Family-Based Interventions

Three studies have examined family-based interventions. Barkley and colleagues[107] randomly assigned 12- to 18-year-olds to 8 to 10 sessions of behavior management training, problem-solving and communication training, or structural family therapy. All strategies resulted in significant improvement in negative communication, conflict, anger during conflicts, school adjustment, internalizing and externalizing symptoms, and maternal depressive symptoms at post-treatment, and improvements were largely maintained at a 3-month follow-up visit. However, only 5% to 20% in each treatment group demonstrated clinically significant reliable change following treatment.

Another study compared parent behavior management training with parent behavior management training/problem solving and communication therapy.[108] Both treatments resulted in significant improvement in parent-teen conflicts but were not statistically different from each other. Although such group-level analysis and normalization rates supported the efficacy of these treatments, reliable change indices were similar to those reported by Barkley and colleagues.[107]

Another study evaluated behavior management, problem solving, and education groups for parents of adolescents with ADHD.[109] Pretreatment and posttreatment comparisons indicated statistically significant reductions in the frequency and intensity of self-reported parent-adolescent conflict and in parent-reported problem behavior and positive effects on parent skills and confidence.

Although all these studies are promising, they did not produce much clinically significant reliable change or they were limited by methodologic design (ie, lack of a control or alternative treatment group). In terms of clinical implications, multimodal long-term treatment may be useful to assist parents in their interactions with their teens to manage parental and family distress,[110] as opposed to simply reducing ADHD symptom severity.

School-Based Interventions

Academic functioning is one of the most common concerns of parents of adolescents with ADHD.[110] Interventions targeting academic impairment in adolescents with ADHD are promising.[111] One school-based intervention involving directed note taking through group-based didactic and modeling yielded statistically significant improvements in on-task behavior, material comprehension, and daily assignment scores in a sample of adolescents with ADHD.[112] A more comprehensive treatment, called the Challenging Horizons Program,[113] involves after-school academic training incorporating behavioral strategies in a group and individual setting and monthly group parent training. This program has yielded moderate to large effect sizes on parent- and teacher-rated academic functioning and classroom disturbance compared with a community care group among middle school students with ADHD.[114] Although effect sizes were less promising for social functioning, and methodologic design limited the generalizability of these findings (eg, quasi-experimental design, small sample size), a 3-year treatment outcome study of this program indicated cumulative long-term benefits for the treatment group compared with a community care control group for parent ratings of ADHD symptoms and social functioning.[115] However, this latter study did not indicate any academic benefits of the treatment. Single-subject design studies also support the beneficial impact of behavioral techniques (eg, self-monitoring and functional analysis) in improving goal-oriented behavior in the classroom while reducing disruptive behavior among adolescents with ADHD.[116,117] This deserves additional consideration in future research.

A variant of the interventions aimed at academic behavior in adolescents with ADHD is also emerging. The Homework Intervention Program is a behavioral-based parent training program targeting homework in middle school students. In a pilot study of a small sample of middle school students diagnosed with ADHD (n = 11), multiple-baseline design analyses indicated an improvement in parent-reported homework problems and ADHD symptoms, overall grade point average, and teacher-reported productivity.[118]

Overall, comprehensive school-based interventions are promising and, similar to family-based interventions, warrant future research. Psychosocial treatment for adolescents with ADHD is a small, yet developing field of research. Current treatments need to be more thoroughly assessed. For example, social impairment continues into adolescence.[119] Further, social impairment in youth with ADHD increases the risk for substance use and related problems,[120] which demonstrates the need to also target social functioning in adolescent ADHD interventions. Providers also need to consider how to individualize treatment for adolescents with ADHD and the various potential comorbidities that can be present. In addition, treatments that complement existing psychosocial treatment approaches should be considered to target the multidimensional challenges that adolescents with ADHD face.[66] Some potentially complimentary treatments have yielded promising results. For example, attention training in cognitive training programs, mindfulness meditation, and physical exercise to reduce disruptive behaviors have shown potential, although more methodologically rigorous trials are required.[121-123]

Driving and ADHD

In North America, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among adolescents.[124] Drivers with ADHD are at significantly higher risk for poor driving outcomes, including increased traffic citations (particularly speeding), accidents that are their fault, repeated and more severe accidents, driving-related morbidity, and license suspensions and revocations.[125] Such findings were not better accounted for by comorbidity or intelligence. Given that substance use is not uncommon in persons with ADHD, the risks associated with drug and alcohol use should also be considered.[126] In terms of clinical implications of such findings, stimulant medications have been shown to improve driving performance in drivers with ADHD.[127-129] The method of stimulant delivery is also an important factor. In one study, adolescent drivers with ADHD drove better throughout the day on a driving simulator after taking an extended controlled-release stimulant compared with an immediate-release formulation.[126]

ADHD Pharmacotherapy and Growth

The effects of ADHD medication (especially stimulants) have been an area of considerable debate and controversy. Reviews indicate that treatment with stimulant medication does lead to subsequent delays in height (approximately 1 cm per year during the first 3 years of treatment) and weight.[130,131] These reviews also indicate that the effect of stimulants on growth decline over time, that growth deficits may be dose dependent, that growth suppression effects may not differ between methylphenidate and amphetamine, that stimulant discontinuation may lead to growth normalization, and that ADHD may itself be associated with dysregulated growth.[130,131]

In one longitudinal study, methylphenidate treatment was associated with small yet significant delays in height, weight, and body mass index.[132] Within the ADHD sample, those who had not received prior stimulant therapy and those who entered the study with an above average height, weight, and body mass index were most likely to experience growth deficits while taking stimulants. Further, the impact on all growth indices was most apparent during the first year of treatment and attenuated over time. In another longitudinal study that evaluated the effect of stimulant medication on physical growth, a newly medicated group exhibited reductions in size after 3 years of treatment relative to a nonmedicated group; the newly medicated group was 2.0 cm shorter and weighed 2.7 kg less.[133]

These findings indicate that in clinical settings, the potential benefits in symptom reduction and daily functioning need to be contrasted with the small but significant effects of pharmacotherapy (particularly stimulants) on growth. In most cases, growth suppression effects do not appear to be a clinical concern for most children treated with stimulants.[130] Although future studies are required to clarify the effects of continuous pharmacotherapy into adulthood to attain a better perspective of the long-term impact on growth, these findings suggest that growth rate should be monitored during treatment for ADHD.

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ADHD Medications in Adults Yield Mixed Cardiovascular Risk Results

In ADHD, ADHD stimulant treatment, Medication, School Psychology on Thursday, 13 September 2012 at 06:22

ADHD Medications in Adults Yield Mixed Cardiovascular Risk Results

Deborah Brauser & Hien T. Nghiem, MD

http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/759069

In the United States, roughly 1.5 million adults use medications for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These medications include amphetamines, atomoxetine, and methylphenidate. ADHD medications are known to increase both blood pressure (< 5 mm Hg) and heart rate (< 7 bpm). Given these effects, there are concerns regarding serious cardiovascular events related to taking ADHD medications.

The aim of this study by Hennessy and colleagues was to determine whether use of methylphenidate in adults is associated with elevated rates of serious cardiovascular events compared with rates in nonusers.

Study Synopsis and Perspective

Although adults prescribed the ADHD medication methylphenidate may be at increased risk for adverse cardiovascular events, this association may not be causal, new research suggests.

In a cohort study of almost 220,000 individuals, new users of methylphenidate had almost twice the risk for sudden death or ventricular arrhythmia than age-matched control participants had. They also had a significantly higher risk for all-cause death.

However, the medication dosage “was inversely associated with risk,” meaning it lacked a dose-response relationship, report the investigators.

“We were surprised by the risk findings. But the inverse associations leads us to be somewhat skeptical,” coinvestigator Sean Hennessy, PharmD, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology and pharmacology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, told Medscape Medical News.

“Ordinarily, if a drug increases the risk of adverse outcomes, that increase is going to be dose-dependent. We didn’t see that, and in fact, found an inverse relationship for death and other outcomes,” he explained.

Dr. Hennessy said that this could be due to “frail, elderly patients who have other things going on” and who are prescribed low-dose methylphenidate.

“Maybe baseline differences in those patients that aren’t captured in the medical claims data are responsible for the elevated risk of adverse outcomes we were seeing rather than it being a causal effect of the methylphenidate itself,” he opined.

“So I would say to wait for these findings to be replicated and clarified in other research before they are acted on clinically.”

The study is published in the February issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry

Am J Psychiatry. 2012;169:112-114;178-185.

Mixed Findings

According to the investigators, methylphenidate and other ADHD medications are used by almost 1.5 million adults in the United States — even though these medications have been shown to raise blood pressure and heart rate.

“Given these effects, case reports of sudden death, stroke, and myocardial infarction have led to regulatory and public concern about the cardiovascular safety of these drugs,” write the researchers.

However, in May 2011, and reported by Medscape Medical News at that time, the same group of researchers published a study in Pediatrics that showed no increased risk for cardiovascular events in children treated with ADHD medications.

In addition, researchers from Kaiser Permanente Northern California published a study in December 2011 in the Journal of the American Medical Association that examined risks in adults younger than age 65 years who were taking methylphenidate, amphetamine, atomoxetine, or pemoline.

The combined group of ADHD medication users showed no increased risk for serious cardiovascular events, including myocardial infarction, sudden cardiac death, or stroke, compared with the group of nonusers.

For this analysis, investigators examined records from Medicaid and commercial databases, representing 19 states, for adults in a broader age range. Included were 43,999 new users of methylphenidate and 175,955 individuals who did not use methylphenidate, amphetamines, or atomoxetine (for both groups, 55.4% were women).

In each group, 67.3% of the participants were between the ages of 18 and 47 years, 23.2% were between the ages of 48 and 64 years, and 9.5% were aged 65 years or older.

Primary cardiac events assessed included sudden death or ventricular arrhythmia, myocardial infarction, stroke, and a combination of stroke/myocardial infarction. All-cause death was a secondary measure.

Unexpected Results

Results showed that the adjusted hazard ratio (HR) for sudden death/ventricular arrhythmia for the methylphenidate users compared with the nonusers was 1.84 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.33 – 2.55). For all-cause death, the HR was 1.74 (95% CI, 1.60 – 1.89).

Adjusted HRs for myocardial infarction and stroke (alone or in combination) were not statistically different between the 2 treatment groups.

For the participants who experienced a cardiovascular event, the median treatment dosage was 20 mg/day. No significant association was found for sudden death/ventricular arrhythmia between the patients who took more or less than 20 mg/day of methylphenidate.

“However, there were unexpected inverse associations” between high methylphenidate dosage and stroke, myocardial infarction, stroke/myocardial infarction, and all-cause death compared with low dosage, report the researchers. They add that this lack of a dose-response association discredits a causal relationship.

“Furthermore, the inverse relationships…may suggest that lower dosages were prescribed to the frailest patients, who might have had a greater risk of all-cause death and sudden death — that is, the results may have been affected by unmeasured confounding,” write the investigators.

Other limitations cited included the fact that the study was not randomized and that administrative databases do not include potential confounders such as smoking, blood pressure, substance use, and exercise use/nonuse.

Dr. Hennessy reported that the investigators also assessed cardiovascular risks in their study participants who were also taking amphetamines or atomoxetine. They will be publishing those results soon.

Findings “Generally Reassuring”

Christopher J. Kratochvil, MD, from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, writes in an accompanying editorial that this and other studies are “generally reassuring and demonstrate movement in the right direction, with systematic retrospective analyses better informing us of issues related to cardiovascular safety with ADHD pharmacotherapy.”

“While gaps persist in the methodical and comprehensive assessments of the safety of ADHD medications, these studies add valuable information to our already large repository of safety and efficacy data…and better inform the risk-benefit analysis of their use,” writes Dr. Kratochvil, who was not involved with this research.

He adds that establishing a “robust” national electronic health records system containing detailed data elements will also offer considerable help to clinicians.

These large and more accessible databases “will allow us to improve our identification and understanding of rare but serious adverse effects and better address these questions of public health significance,” he concludes.

The study was funded through a sponsored research agreement with Shire Development, Inc., and by a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health. The study authors all receive salary support from Shire through their employers. All financial disclosures for the study authors and Dr. Kratochvil are listed in the original article.

Study Highlights

■This study was a nonrandomized cohort study of new users of methylphenidate based on administrative data from a 5-state Medicaid database (1999-2003) and a 14-state commercial insurance database (2001-2006).

■All new methylphenidate users with at least 180 days of prior enrollment were identified.

■Users were matched on data source, state, sex, and age to as many as 4 comparison participants who did not use methylphenidate, amphetamines, or atomoxetine.

■A total of 43,999 new methylphenidate users were identified and were matched to 175,955 nonusers.

■The main outcome measures were (1) sudden death or ventricular arrhythmia; (2) stroke; (3) myocardial infarction; and (4) a composite endpoint of stroke or myocardial infarction.

■Secondary outcomes included all-cause death and nonsuicide death.

■Results demonstrated that the age-standardized incidence rate per 1000 person-years of sudden death or ventricular arrhythmia was 2.17 (95% CI, 1.63 – 2.83) in methylphenidate users and 0.98 (95% CI, 0.89 – 1.08) in nonusers, for an adjusted HR of 1.84 (95% CI, 1.33 – 2.55).

■Dosage was inversely associated with the risks for stroke, myocardial infarction, stroke/myocardial infarction, and all-cause death.

■Adjusted HRs for stroke, myocardial infarction, and the composite endpoint of stroke or myocardial infarction did not differ statistically from one another.

■For the secondary outcome of all-cause death, methylphenidate demonstrated a positive association (adjusted HR, 1.74; 95% CI, 1.60 – 1.89). Nonsuicide deaths were nearly identical.

■Limitations of this study include the potential for unmeasured confounders (ie, smoking, blood pressure, nonprescribed aspirin use, substance misuse, and level of physical activity) because the study was not randomized.

Clinical Implications

■ADHD medications raise blood pressure by less than 5 mm Hg and heart rate by less than 7 bpm.

■Although initiation of methylphenidate was associated with a 1.8-fold increase in the risk for sudden death or ventricular arrhythmia, the lack of a dose-response relationship suggests that this association may not be a causal one.

 

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