The Harvard Mental Health Letter (v. 24:8, Feb. 2008) has a short blurb about a new medication being researched for the treatment of active mania.
Tamoxifen. Yes, the drug best known for treating and inhibiting the growth of estrogen sensitive breast cancers. Apparently it also inhibits an enzyme (protein kinase C or PKC) which may contribute to mania. The study lasted only 3 weeks and on a tiny sample of people (both males and females). But, there are positive signs that it stops active bipolar symptoms. 63% of those taking the drug improved, many within five days. Only 13% of those taking a placebo improved.
Side effects include hot flashes, increased risks for stroke and blood clots (known from its study in breast cancer patients). We will have to wait to see if it is useful just in bringing mania under control or also in long-term maintenance. Actually, we’ll have to wait a long time to see if it is ever used at all with manic individuals.
I do wonder about the back-story. How did this drug get targeted as a possibility. Was it in the lab or did doctors report that their actively manic breast cancer patients seemed to get better. That is how many of these discoveries get made. Viagra, for example, was first used to reduce hypertension. Turns out it was not particularly good at doing that. But, the men in the studies reported some other surprising and very desirable side effects. Oh, if you can believe wikipedia, it also helps reduce plant wilting in cut flowers. Sorry, couldn’t help but add that little factoid.