BACKGROUND: To test the effectiveness and safety of omega-3 fatty acids (Omegabrite(R) brand) in the treatment of pediatric bipolar disorder (BPD).

METHOD: Subjects (N=20) were outpatients of both sexes, 6 to 17 years of age, with a DSM-IV diagnosis of BPD and Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) score of >15 treated over an 8-week period in open-label trial with omega-3 fatty acids 1290 mg-4300 mg combined EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

RESULTS: Subjects experienced a statistically significant but modest 8.9+/-2.9 point reduction in the YMRS scores (baseline YMRS=28.9+/-10.1; endpoint YMRS=19.1+/-2.6, p<0.001). Adverse events were few and mild. Red blood cell membrane levels of EPA and DHA increased in treated subjects.

CONCLUSIONS: As only 35% of these subjects had a response by the usual accepted criteria of >50% decrease on the YMRS, omega-3 fatty acids treatment was associated with a very modest improvement in manic symptoms in children with BPD.