The Guideline Development Group has made the following recommendations for research, based on its review of evidence, to improve NICE guidance and patient care in the future. The Guideline Development Group's full set of research recommendations is detailed in the full guideline.
In the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder, what is the relative effect on quality of life of lithium, an antipsychotic (haloperidol, olanzapine, quetiapine or risperidone), or a combination of lithium and an antipsychotic?
Why this is important
Lithium and antipsychotic medication are known to reduce the risk of relapse when used long‑term in people with bipolar disorder. Relapses do still occur and the response is usually to add another mood‑stabilising drug. However, lithium and antipsychotics are associated with a number of side effects, some of which can adversely affect physical health. The relative effects of lithium, an antipsychotic or a combination of these drugs, regarding efficacy, tolerability, cost effectiveness and quality of life, are unknown. Such information is important to people with bipolar disorder to help them make an informed choice about the treatment options available to them, and to the NHS to inform the best use of resources.
The suggested programme of research should involve a pragmatic 3‑arm RCT comparing lithium monotherapy with antipsychotic monotherapy (haloperidol, olanzapine, quetiapine or risperidone) and a combination of lithium and an antipsychotic. The study should last at least 1 year with the primary outcome being quality of life. Symptom control, relapse, function and economic outcomes should also be measured.