It was the largest pediatric study of its kind regarding mood stabilizers, according to scientists at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. The clinical trial tested the drug, divalproex sodium, created for adults with bipolar disorder, to see if it helped children and adolescents.

Currently, many doctors prescribe adult medications for children as well as adolescents who suffer from bipolar disorder even though this specific use has not been acknowledged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Divalproex and lithium are two of the most widely used mood stabilizers in use today for children and adolescents diagnosed with bipolar disorder, according to Robert A. Kowatch, M.D., Ph.D. He is a child and adolescent psychiatrist who specializes in bipolar disorder and other mood disorders at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. "Our study now proves that these agents definitely work [on children with bipolar disorder]," Kowatch said, "which may give clinicians and families peace of mind."

These results are the first in a controlled trial to test and compare lithium and divalproex against a placebo. The results are also the first to prove that these drugs work when administered to children between the ages of seven to 17 who suffer with bipolar disorder.

Specifically, the tests demonstrated that at the end of an eight-week period, those with bipolar disorder who received divalproex significantly decreased their average scores on the study's primary outcome of measurement for manic episode severity. Fifty-six percent of those with bipolar disorder experienced improvement taking divalproex, and 41 percent with bipolar disorder experienced improvement using lithium. This compares to only 30 percent experiencing improvement with the placebo.