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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 19587

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.

 

Publication type: Journal Article

Tsai AC, Rosenlicht NZ, Jureidini JN, Parry PI, Spielmans GI, Healy D
Aripiprazole in the Maintenance Treatment of Bipolar Disorder: A Critical Review of the Evidence and Its Dissemination into the Scientific Literature
PLoS Med 2011 May 3;
http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000434


Abstract:

Background
Aripiprazole, a second-generation antipsychotic medication, has been increasingly used in the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder and received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this indication in 2005. Given its widespread use, we sought to critically review the evidence supporting the use of aripiprazole in the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder and examine how that evidence has been disseminated in the scientific literature.

Methods and Findings
We systematically searched multiple databases to identify double-blind, randomized controlled trials of aripiprazole for the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder while excluding other types of studies, such as open-label, acute, and adjunctive studies. We then used a citation search to identify articles that cited these trials and rated the quality of their citations. Our evidence search protocol identified only two publications, both describing the results of a single trial conducted by Keck et al., which met criteria for inclusion in this review. We describe four issues that limit the interpretation of that trial as supporting the use of aripiprazole for bipolar maintenance: (1) insufficient duration to demonstrate maintenance efficacy; (2) limited generalizability due to its enriched sample; (3) possible conflation of iatrogenic adverse effects of abrupt medication discontinuation with beneficial effects of treatment; and (4) a low overall completion rate. Our citation search protocol yielded 80 publications that cited the Keck et al. trial in discussing the use of aripiprazole for bipolar maintenance. Of these, only 24 (30%) mentioned adverse events reported and four (5%) mentioned study limitations.

Conclusions
A single trial by Keck et al. represents the entirety of the literature on the use of aripiprazole for the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder. Although careful review identifies four critical limitations to the trial’s interpretation and overall utility, the trial has been uncritically cited in the subsequent scientific literature.

 

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Cases of wilful misrepresentation are a rarity in medical advertising. For every advertisement in which nonexistent doctors are called on to testify or deliberately irrelevant references are bunched up in [fine print], you will find a hundred or more whose greatest offenses are unquestioning enthusiasm and the skill to communicate it.

The best defence the physician can muster against this kind of advertising is a healthy skepticism and a willingness, not always apparent in the past, to do his homework. He must cultivate a flair for spotting the logical loophole, the invalid clinical trial, the unreliable or meaningless testimonial, the unneeded improvement and the unlikely claim. Above all, he must develop greater resistance to the lure of the fashionable and the new.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963