Taglithium

Reading of the Week: Can Lithium in Drinking Water Help Prevent Dementia? The Kessing et al. Paper from JAMA Psychiatry

From the Editor

Since the extraordinary work of John Cade some seven decades ago, lithium has been used as a medication to help people with bipolar. But the history of lithium use is longer – for many years, people have understood that it has medicinal value, and bottled water containing lithium was popular at the turn of the twentieth century (long before Dr. Cade started medical school).

We know that lithium affects the brain in many ways (for example, it slows apoptosis, or programmed cell death); we also that know that dementia can work on those same pathways, but in a negative way (it may sped up apoptosis). In this week’s selection, the authors wonder if lithium can prevent dementia. It’s a big question – and the authors tap a big national database. They find a non-linear correlation between lithium in drinking water and dementia.

Tap water: A potential prevention for dementia if it has lithium in it?

So – does this paper represent something of a breakthrough? We look at the paper and an editorial to answer that question.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Is ‘New’ Overrated? Antipsychotics in the Real World

From the Editor

Is new better?

You may be reading this on an iPhone 7, having driven to work this morning in a 2017 Hybrid Prius. So should your patients be taking a medication that became available four-and-a-half decades ago – when people drove gus-gusling eight-cylinder Oldsmobiles and smartphones didn’t even exist in science fiction novels.

This week, we look at a just-published JAMA Psychiatry paper which promises to look at the “real-world” effectiveness of antipsychotics. The authors tapped Swedish databases to consider outcomes for nearly thirty thousand people with schizophrenia.

Sweden: elaborate welfare state, beautiful historic buildings, and – yes – rich databases

Spoiler alert: new wasn’t better. That is, newer antipsychotics tended to underperform clozapine and depot medications.

We also look at similar “real-world” work drawing from a Finnish database considering treatment of depression.

DG Continue reading

Reading of the Week: Guest Contribution – Dr. David Goldbloom on Lithium and Self Harm

From a Contributing Editor, Colleague and Friend of the Editor

Sixty-seven years ago, Australian psychiatrist John Cade published his case series on manic patients treated with lithium – truly the dawn of the modern era in psychopharmacology. Two decades passed before lithium came to Canada, and almost three before it came to the United States. In the treatment of mania, it was the first significant drug alternative to the only other enduring treatment from that time – electroconvulsive therapy.

Dr. John Cade (and Lithium)

Today, however, lithium suffers from under-promotion (there is no money to be made on it by the pharmaceutical industry) and under-exposure in the training of residents despite the evidence of its benefit that continues to emerge.

Here is a new paper that looks at suicide and self-harm during maintenance treatment of people with bipolar disorder treated with lithium, valproate or the increasingly popular second-generation antipsychotic drugs. And here is an old paper that reminds us what a difference lithium had already made in the economics of mental illness by 1980.

– David Goldbloom, OC, MD, FRCP(C) Continue reading