Washington: Lithium - a drug used successfully for decades to treat adults with bipolar disorder - can also be safe and effective for treating children suffering from the condition, a new study has claimed. The study, led by a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Children's Centre affirms what clinicians who prescribe this drug have observed for years and suggests that doctors can now more confidently add lithium to the armamentarium of available treatments for this vulnerable population - at least in theshort term, researchers said.
Lithium is one of the oldest drugs for bipolar disorder,a chronic brain condition marked by spontaneous, seesawingbouts of abnormally high moods and depression. The drug's ability to stabilise mood extremes has been well-established in adults."Lithium is the grandfather of all treatments for bipolar disorder, but it has never been rigorously studied in children," said Robert Findling, a professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Findling initiated the work while director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Though medications used to treat schizophrenia and other psychoses are prescribed to treat bipolar disorder in children, Findling says, those drugs have been linked to
substantial weight gain, a considerable medical and social drawback for young people that causes many to stop taking them.
Findling and his colleagues performed a randomised, placebo-controlled prospective study involving 81 patients seen at nine academic medical centres across the US. The participants, split roughly equally between sexes, ranged in age from 7 to 17 and had all been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
After undergoing a "washout" period for those already taking ineffective medication for this condition, 53 children started a regimen of lithium at a standard dose, then gradually increased to a maximum tolerated dose over the next eight weeks if mood symptoms weren't controlled. The remaining
28 patients received placebo.
Results showed that the patients on lithium experienced far more significant improvement in their symptoms over eight weeks compared with those on the placebo. Some 47 per cent of those on lithium scored in the range of "very much improved" or "much improved" on the Clinical Global Impressions Scale, a rating system commonly used to assess the efficacy of treatments in patients with mental disorders, compared to 21 per cent of those on the placebo. The study was published in the journal Pediatrics....