Off-Label Use of Second-generation Antipsychotics in Bipolar Disorder: A Survey of Italian Psychiatrists

Virginio Salvi, Giancarlo Cerveri, Andrea Aguglia, Salvatore Calò, Mariangela Corbo, Giovanni Martinotti, Gianluca Serafini, Maria Salvina Signorelli, Eugenio Aguglia, Mario Amore, Giovanni Biggio, Guido DI Sciascio, Claudio Mencacci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bipolar disorder (BD) is characterized by recurrent depressive and manic episodes. Lithium, valproate, lamotrigine, and some second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs) are the most typical pharmacological treatments for BD, the main goal being mood stabilization. However, despite these treatments, most patients continue to experience recurrent mood episodes and residual symptoms. Findings from several studies suggest that some SGAs may be beneficial beyond approved indications. The goal of the survey presented in this article was to examine Italian psychiatrists' attitudes concerning the off-label use of SGAs in depressive and maintenance phases of BD. A questionnaire about the off-label prescription of SGAs was e-mailed to 300 psychiatrists from Northern, Central, and Southern Italy affiliated with the Italian Society of Psychopharmacology (SINPF) to investigate the frequency of and motivation for off-label use of SGAs and evaluate the psychiatrists' attitude toward use of specific SGAs in BD; 202 questionnaires were completed. The respondents were equally distributed in terms of sex, and the mean age of respondents was 44.1 years. The majority of the sample reported use of SGAs for off-label indications either very often (16.7%), often (33.7%), or occasionally (34.7%). The main motivation for off-label use of the SGAs was the presence of published evidence (51.5%), followed by patients' nonresponse to previous treatment (37.1%). With regard to the use of specific SGAs in BD, off-label aripiprazole was considered appropriate for depressive episodes by 46% of the psychiatrists, followed by olanzapine which was considered appropriate by 33.7%. For maintenance treatment of BD, off-label asenapine was considered appropriate by 45% of the psychiatrists, followed by long-acting aripiprazole and olanzapine pamoate, which were considered appropriate by 37.1% and 23.8%, respectively. In summary, ~50% of Italian psychiatrists frequently (very often or often) prescribe SGAs for off-label indications. Given the relatively limited number of indicated effective treatments for BD, the use of some SGAs off-label may be considered appropriate when dealing with patients whose BD is resistant to medications with labeled indications for BD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-327
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Psychiatric Practice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Off-Label Use of Second-generation Antipsychotics in Bipolar Disorder: A Survey of Italian Psychiatrists'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this