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Review casts doubt on lithium use

Prescribing lithium for schizophrenia exposes patients to side-effects without effectively treating their illness, according to a new Cochrane Collaboration report.

The report, reviewing trials of the mood-stabilising drug on 611 patients, said there was no evidence that lithium by itself was effective in treating schizophrenia.

The report's three authors warned that doctors needed to consider the drug's side-effects before deciding whether to carry on prescribing it.

Side-effects of the drug include feelings of nausea, loss of appetite, mild stomach upsets, excessive urination and thirst.

'If there is no evidence that the treatment has been effective, then it should be gradually tapered off and then stopped,' they advised.

A spokesperson for the RCGP said GPs would generally leave the decision on whether to continue prescribing lithium to the specialists who decided on the prescription in the first place.

'It's established good practice for lithium to be initiated by psychiatrists, and for GPs to continue treatment,' they said.

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