Lithium for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
A study published in
(National Academy of Sciences), reviewed the benefits of adding the drug
About the Study
The study was conducted in Italy at the Universities of Pisa and Novara. Researchers studied 44 patients with ALS for less than five years. About 25% of patients had bulbar presentation, a severe and rapidly progressive form of ALS. The patients were split into two groups:
- 28 patients were given riluzole 50 mg twice daily
- 16 patients were given riluzole 50 mg twice daily plus lithium carbonate 150 mg twice daily
Medication was given for 15 months. Lithium levels were monitored for safety and the dose was adjusted to 450 mg/day if necessary to reach the appropriate blood levels.
The tragedy of this disease is death within two to five years in general and within 6-18 months with bulbar disease. Most people with ALS will die from respiratory failure because the muscles used to breathe can no longer function. In this study, after 15 months all of the patients who were taking riluzole and lithium were still alive with preservation of their ability to breathe. In the group who took riluzole alone, about 1/3 of the other group had died with deterioration of their ability to breathe.
How Does This Affect You?
This research had promising results, but was a very small study. Further studies will need to be done to confirm the benefits before it can be adopted as a regular treatment. Discuss the option of lithium treatment with your physician.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Fornai F, Longone P, Cafaro L, et al. Lithium delays progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. PNAS . 2008 Feb;105:2052-2057. Available at: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/105/6/2052. Accessed May 2, 2008.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/amyotrophiclateralsclerosis. . Accessed April 2, 2008.
Last reviewed May 2008 by
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