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Published on 7 April 2010

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Lithium ‘ineffective’ as ALS drug

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Lithium does not delay the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as motor neurones disease, a double-blind randomised test of the drug has found.

The result, published in the May edition of The Lancet Neurology, is disappointing for ALS sufferers, especially after initial research suggested positive results.

Of 84 people enlisted for the six-month trial, the symptoms of 22 patients given lithium deteriorated. Volunteers in the drug group were also more likely to suffer back and neck pain.

“Although a modest benefit of lithium was not ruled out by the study.we found no evidence that lithium in combination with riluzole slows progression of ALS more than riluzole alone,” the study said.

“At this time, there remains no convincing evidence for the use of lithium as a treatment for patients with ALS.”

The disease attacks the brain and spinal cord, causing difficulty in walking, talking and eating.

Riluzole, which can slow the progression of ALS by several months, is the only treatment approved for the disease in the US.

Copyright Press Association 2010
The Lancet



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