According to a recent study, it can be said that patients suffering with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can be benefitted with the psychiatric drug lithium. In the beginning of November 2009, an investigation involving 171 people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis was stopped due to high dropout rates from death, side effects and also because some patients believed that drug was futile. ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that gives rise to weakness in muscles, especially those which control the processes of swallowing and breathing. N.Y. Yankee died because of this disorder, but physicians in United States believe that ‘riluzole’ is that one approved drug for ALS treatment that can facilitate in median survival of three years.
An associate professor of neurology at the University of Torino, Italy, Dr. Adriano Chio stated that as per an Italian study done two years ago; lithium which is frequently used for treating bipolar disorder can prove beneficial for ALS patients. In that Italian study, lithium facilitated sixteen ALS patients in prolonged survival. Dr. Chio led the most recent study keeping in mind that successive research has not confirmed the effect and said that lithium can affect one of the mechanisms associated to motor neuron degeneration in ALS. However, the effect clearly demonstrated that drop-out rate from death was two times higher than the previous trials and came out to be 68 percent.
Dr. Carmel Armon of Tufts University stated that Chio Study has a limitation that he himself has acknowledged and, that is, it did not use a true placebo, instead it uses different doses. Chief scientist for ALS Association in Washington, Lucie Bruijn emphasized that there are toxic doses of lithium. The ‘subtherapeutic doses’ of lithium were poorly tolerated by the patients and some of them even complained about severe adverse effects like cerebral hemorrhage, heart disturbance or deep vein blood clots.