Friday, August 11, 2023

Lithium May Reduce Psychiatric Hospitalizations in People With Bipolar, Major Depressive Disorder

Taking lithium may significantly reduce the risk of psychiatric hospitalization for people who have major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, a study in the Journal of Affective Disorders has found.

Maurizio Pompili, M.D, Ph.D., of Sapienza University in Rome and colleagues analyzed data from the health records of 260 adult patients who had either major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder and had been admitted to the psychiatric unit of Sant’Andrea University Hospital in Rome between February 2019 and August 2020. The researchers compared the patients’ psychiatric hospitalization rates for the 12 months before they started taking lithium with their hospitalization rates during the first 12 months of taking lithium.

In the 12 months before taking lithium, 40.4% of the patients were hospitalized, whereas only 11.2% of patients were hospitalized while taking the drug. This represents a 3.62-fold reduction in hospitalization during lithium treatment. The risk of hospitalization did not differ significantly between patients with major depressive disorder and patients with bipolar disorder either before or during treatment with lithium, suggesting that taking lithium similarly benefitted both groups of patients.

Pompili and colleagues wrote that this finding was “unexpected,” as other studies have suggested that lithium is more effective in patients with bipolar disorder than those with major depressive disorder.

The risk of hospitalization also did not differ significantly between patients who took only lithium and patients who also took other psychotropic medications, with the exception of patients who also took antipsychotics: Patients who took an antipsychotic along with lithium had 21.1 times the odds of being hospitalized than those who did not take an antipsychotic.

“An association of co-treatment with an antipsychotic plus lithium among patients who required hospitalization probably represents greater illness severity,” the researchers wrote.

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Antipsychotics Increasingly Prescribed for Bipolar Disorder.”

(Image: iStock/robypangy)

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