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September 5, 2005

FDA-Approved Office Lithium Test

The FDA has approved a lithium test that can be easily administered in a psychiatrists office within a matter of minutes. This quick and easy method will make it easier for clinicians to monitor levels of lithium in the blood of patients taking it for bipolar disorder. Lithium levels must be monitored due to the fact that the amount needed to be effective is just below toxicity level. Their therapeutic range is between 0.4 mEq/L and 1.4 mEq/L. The testing system is said to be similar to the glucose level tests used for diabetic patients.

The office test has been found to be just as accurate as testing done in commercial laboratories. Some psychiatrists find prescribing lithium troublesome because of the fact that it needs to be consistently monitored. This may be one of the reasons that lithium is not prescribed as often as it used to be for bipolar disorder. Clinicians in the US prescribe it much less often than those in other parts of the world, in which it is commonplace.

"There are specific times, Goodwin said, when he might want to know more about his patients' lithium levels and have the levels monitored frequently. For example, if a patient experiences breakthrough depression, one of the strategies that works well is to increase the lithium levels temporarily. If a patient has started a vigorous exercise program, such as training for the Boston Marathon, Goodwin said he would want to know the effects of sweating on the patient's lithium levels" (Psychiatric Times).

The office test is also a great way to ensure compliance with medication which is the number#1 reason why medications are found not to work. Lithium has also been found to reduce the level of suicide in patients with bipolar disorder. Some studies find it to be the best medication for preventing suicide in patients with bipolar disorder.

Original Source: FDA-Approved Office Lithium Test Expected To Enhance Clinical Care. Psychiatric Times. August 2005. By Arline Kaplan.

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