Pediatric bipolar disorder is a severe disabling condition affecting 1%-3% of youth worldwide. Both acute and maintenance treatment with medications are mainstays of treatment. It is well established in adult literature that adherence to medications improves outcomes and many adult studies have examined factors impacting adherence. This systematic review set out to identify the current state of research examining adherence to medications and characteristics influencing adherence in pediatric bipolar disorder. We performed a systematic literature review in the Medline, PsycINFO, CINAHL, EMBASE, Wiley Clinical Trials, and Cochrane databases. New research regarding characteristics and measurement of adherence to psychotropic medication for bipolar disorder (I, II, or not otherwise specified) in patients ≤18 years old were included for review. Exclusion criteria included no bipolar diagnosis, inclusion of patients >18 years old, no pharmacologic treatment, and lack of adherence measurements. Initial search generated 439 articles after duplicate removal. One hundred thirty-three full-text articles were reviewed, 16 underwent additional review and 6 were selected for final inclusion. The majority of articles were excluded for patients >18 years old. Included articles were extremely heterogeneous for multiple measures, including methodology, determination of adherence, adherence rates, and characteristics influencing adherence. Of medications evaluated, 6/6 studies included mood stabilizers, 4/6 antidepressants, 3/6 antipsychotics, and 2/6 psychostimulants. Three out of six articles included patients <12 years old. Some significant factors affecting adherence included polypharmacy, comorbid psychiatric diagnoses, socioeconomic status, sex, family history and functioning, side effects, race, stability of bipolar diagnosis, and number of follow-up visits attended. Pediatric-specific information on medication adherence in bipolar disorder is very limited. Information on patient characteristics that may influence adherence rates is critical to target interventions to improve adherence. No articles reported on interventions to improve adherence. Given the different psychosocial situations of pediatric patients versus adults, it is likely that targets for improving adherence differ in pediatric patients.
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