Pharmacological treatments for depression and bipolar disorder

The Division is a world-renowned centre of excellence for clinical and epidemiological evidence on the efficacy and effectiveness of treatments and interventions for mental health disorders

We are committed to providing evidence on the effectiveness of pharmacological treatments for psychiatric disorders so that patients, service users and doctors can make the best decisions about treatment. Pharmacological treatments play an important role in treating psychiatric disorder alongside psychological and social interventions. We want to guide policy through evidence, rigorous science and an open mind to contrary points of view. Our research has contributed to national and international clinical guidelines on the safe use of pharmacological treatments which has helped large numbers of people in society manage and recover from mental health problems.

You can find out more about some of our work in this area on this page. 

Featured research into Antidepressants

ANTLER, ANTidepressants to prevent reLapse in dEpRession

Taking long term antidepressants reduced the risk of relapse, but many people were able to come off them safely.


The PANDA Study

For people with depressive symptoms, we found those on the antidepressant sertraline were twice as likely to report feeling better than those on the placebo.


  • Lewis G, et al. The clinical effectiveness of sertraline in primary care and the role of depression severity and duration (PANDA): a pragmatic, double-blind, placebo-controlled randomised trial. The Lancet Psychiatry, Volume 6, Issue 11, 2019, Pages 903-914. ISSN 2215-0366. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(19)30366-9 

Featured research into Lithium

We conducted a number of studies using United Kingdom electronic health records and causal inference methods to understand the long-term effects of lithium compared to other maintenance mood stabiliser medications. These showed that people with bipolar disorder were more likely to be able to be treated with lithium monotherapy than other mood stabilisers without relapse and were less likely to experience self-harm. We quantified the relative risk of a range of adverse effects for these main mood stabilisers for the first time. These studies have been included in prescribing guidance around the world.


  • Hayes JF, Marston L, Walters K, Geddes JR, King M, Osborn DP. Lithium vs. valproate vs. olanzapine vs. quetiapine as maintenance monotherapy for bipolar disorder: a population‐based UK cohort study using electronic health records. World Psychiatry. 2016 Feb;15(1):53-8. doi10.1002/wps.20298
  • Hayes JF, Pitman A, Marston L, et al. Self-harm, Unintentional Injury, and Suicide in Bipolar Disorder During Maintenance Mood Stabilizer Treatment: A UK Population-Based Electronic Health Records Study. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(6):630–637. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.0432 
  • Hayes JF, Marston L, Walters K, Geddes JR, King M, et al. (2016) Adverse Renal, Endocrine, Hepatic, and Metabolic Events during Maintenance Mood Stabilizer Treatment for Bipolar Disorder: A Population-Based Cohort Study. PLOS Medicine 13(8): e1002058. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002058