A third of patients who have taken the common psychiatric medication lithium for over ten years have developed “chronic renal failure” from the drug, according to a study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.
Lithium is commonly prescribed to people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia or eating disorders.
The team of Swedish researchers stated that they had previously found that “1.5% of people who took lithium from the 1960s and 1970s developed end-stage renal disease,” but that more modern approaches to administering the drug and monitoring side effects seemed to have reduced the prevalence of the damaging side effect. For this new study, they wanted to assess the prevalence and extent of kidney damage in more recent long-term users.
The researchers studied 4,879 patients who took lithium for at least 10 years between 1981 and 2010. They found that about one-third of the patients who had taken lithium for 10–29 years had evidence of “chronic renal failure,” while 5% were in the “severe or very severe category.”
“The results indicate that a substantial proportion of adult patients who are treated with lithium for more than a decade develop signs of renal functional impairment, also when treated according to modern therapeutic principles,” they wrote. “Our results emphasise that lithium treatment requires continuous monitoring of kidney function.”
Aiff, Harald, Per-Ola Attman, Mattias Aurell, Hans Bendz, Bernd Ramsauer, Staffan Schön, and Jan Svedlund. “Effects of 10 to 30 Years of Lithium Treatment on Kidney Function.” Journal of Psychopharmacology, March 3, 2015, 0269881115573808. doi:10.1177/0269881115573808. (Abstract)