Animal studies suggest efficacy of lithium. This study in ms suggests lithium is tolerated and that it doesn’t work. So maybe the end of lithium. But the trial is too small to do efficacy so it was probably doomed before it started. People now see failure will a bigger trial be funded. I doubt it

Background: Disability accumulation in progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) results from inflammatory and neurodegenerative mechanisms. In animal models of MS, lithium acts to reduce inflammatory demyelination, and in models of neurodegenerative diseases, lithium also slows neuronal death. Prospective studies of lithium in MS patients have not been previously undertaken.

Objective: To determine the tolerance and feasibility of using low-dose (150-300 mg/daily) lithium as a pharmaceutical intervention in a cohort of subjects with progressive MS, and to gauge preliminary effects of lithium on change in brain volume over time.

Methods: Patients with primary or secondary progressive MS were recruited into a 2-year, single-blind crossover trial in which subjects were randomly assigned to take lithium in year 1 or 2. The primary outcomes of interest were tolerance of lithium and percentage brain volume change (PBVC) on vs. off lithium. Secondary outcomes included relapse rates, disability changes, and self-report scales assessing fatigue, mood, and quality of life (QOL).

Results: Of 24 screened patients, 23 were randomized to take lithium during year 1 (n = 11) or 2 (n = 12). Two subjects discontinued the trial due to lithium side effects. Other reasons for discontinuation included personal reasons (n = 2), worsening MS (n = 1), and development of multiple myeloma (n = 1). For the 17 who completed the trial, change in PBVC on lithium (+0.107) did not significantly differ from the observation period (-0.355, p = 0.346). Disability measured by Expanded Disability Status Scale and MS Functional Composite did not differ by lithium treatment status. On patient reported measures of mental well-being, subjects reported fewer depressive symptoms on the Beck Depression Inventory (12.3 vs. 15.8, p = 0.016) and more favorably on the mental domains of the MSQOL inventory (56.7 vs. 52.4, p = 0.028).

Conclusions: Low-dose lithium is well tolerated in persons with MS. Taking lithium did not result in differences in PBVC, relapses, or disability, but conclusions were limited by study design and sample size. Despite concern for lithium-associated neurological side effects, subjects taking lithium did not report worsened fatigue or physical well-being. On measures of mood and mental health QOL, subjects scored more favorably while taking lithium.

Clinicaltrialsgov identifier: NCT01259388.

Keywords: Clinical research; Clinical trial; Immune disorder; Immunology; Lithium; Nervous system; Neurology; Progressive multiple sclerosis.

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  • Please, I pray, it is the end of Lithium for MS. With time, historical institutional knowledge is lost. My mother’s progressive MS was treated with Lithium in the late 70s At a world class teaching hospital in the US, and it was concurrent with her stopping communicating. I found this single reference to its use in MS :Kemp, K., Lion, J. R., & Magram, G. (1977). Lithium in the treatment of a manic patient with multiple sclerosis: A case report. Diseases of the Nervous System, 38(3), 210–211.

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