Mitigating Disastrous Medication Nonadherence in Bipolar Disorder
Medications are the mainstay treatment for bipolar disorder, more so than in many other conditions.
Consequently, medication nonadherence is often disastrous for bipolar patients, as it can lead to poor
impulse control, increased risk of hospitalization, and even suicide.
Experts indicate that nonadherence
(poor medication adherence) to drug therapy is, in fact, the modifiable risk factor with the most impact on the patient’s condition.
Acknowledging that adverse effects can make or break a bipolar
patient’s prognosis, researchers from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, have
published the first comprehensive literature review covering this topic.
Patients with bipolar disorder who are nonadherent frequently point out adverse effects from prescribed
mood stabilizers that are troubling or intolerable. To pinpoint which specific adverse effects have the
greatest impact on medication nonadherence, the researchers systematically reviewed data from 66
articles, of which all but 16 involved clinical observations studies.
Few studies have addressed nonadherence to drug therapy in bipolar disorder, and the researchers noted
that a lack of validated instruments to assess the medications’ adverse effects might be the cause. There
are also few standardized methods for eliciting, recording, and reporting adverse effects. Regardless, the
authors confirmed that adverse effects are among the most frequently reported reasons for nonadherence.
The researchers also reported that clinicians worry about several medically serious concerns, such as
hypothyroidism, diabetes insipidus, and hypercalcemia, while their patients are much more concerned
about weight gain, tremors, cognitive impairment, and sedation.