Introduction: The standard of treatment of pediatric bipolar disorder (BPD) often requires life-long psychopharmacological management. Several pharmacological agents are approved by the US FDA for the treatment of pediatric BPD. However, each medication may cause adverse events (AEs). Provider awareness of AE profiles of common pharmacologic agents would serve to better inform patients and families in evaluating and selecting between treatment options. Areas covered: This review focuses on medications that, in our clinical experience, are commonly prescribed for youth with BPD and were evaluated in prospective clinical trials for the treatment of pediatric BPD. This paper highlights acute and long-term AEs described in these studies. Expert opinion: Most medications increase risk of AEs in youth with BPD. Treatment with lithium may lead to thyrotropin elevations, but generally does not cause significant weight gain. Divalproex may lead to weight gain; however, this finding was not consistent in comparison studies with lithium. Olanzapine, risperidone, quetiapine, and asenapine are associated with metabolic abnormalities and weight gain. Studies of ziprasidone, aripiprazole and lurasidone do not suggest significant metabolic AEs. More studies are needed to assess efficacy and safety of medications in managing pediatric BPD. Special focus on long-term maintenance trials is required to further identify long-term AEs in this population.
Keywords: Safety; adverse events; anticonvulsants; antipsychotics; bipolar disorder; lithium; pediatric; treatment.