Monday, May 13, 2019

Lithium: Why? Why? Why?

Antidepressants or Lithium! Side Effects but you will live to experience it!

One of my ex-juniors, now retired, called to ask if I have read about another celebrity suicide. How very sad!


Dr. Baldessarini of Harvard:

“Lithium is far from being an ideal medicine, but it’s the best agent we have for reducing the risk of suicide in bipolar disorder,” Dr. Baldessarini says, “and it is our best-established mood-stabilizing treatment.” If patients find they can’t tolerate lithium, the safest option is to reduce the dose as gradually as possible, to give the brain time to adjust. The approach could be lifesaving.

In recent write ups about antidepressants, there is no mention of Lithium. The Cockroach Catcher first worked with one Australian Psychiatrist that worked with Cade and I was, so to speak, very biased towards Lithium. Yes, Lithium has side effects that might be serious. But hang on, you get to live to experience it. Think about it.


"Many psychiatric residents have no or limited experience prescribing lithium, largely a reflection of the enormous focus on the newer drugs in educational programs supported by the pharmaceutical industry."


One might ask why there has been such a shift from Lithium.

Could it be the simplicity of the salt that is causing problems for the younger generation of psychiatrists brought up on various neuro-transmitters?

Could it be the fact that Lithium
 was discovered in Australia? Look at the time it took for Helicobacter pylori to be accepted.

Some felt it has to do with how little money is to be made from Lithium. After all it is less than one eighth the price of a preferred mood stabilizer that has a serious side effect: liver failure.

 
Perhaps it is in the British History:



First, why a small group from the Maudsley Hospital in the 1960s could, in an almost malicious manner, have sown scholarly confusion about the true effectiveness of lithium. Aubrey Lewis, professor of psychiatry and head of the Maudsley, considered lithium treatment “dangerous nonsense” (). Lewis’s colleague at the Maudsley, Michael Shepherd, one of the pioneers of British psychopharmacology, agreed that lithium was a dubious choice. In his 1968 monograph, Clinical Psychopharmacology, Shepherd said that lithium was toxic in mania and that claims of efficacy for it in preventing depression rested on “dubious scientific methodology” (). Shepherd also scorned “prophylactic lithium” in an article with Barry Blackwell (). Moreover, Shepherd was publicly contemptuous of Schou. He told interviewer David Healy that Schou had put his own brother on it, and that Schou was such a “believer” in lithium that he seemed to think “really there ought to be a national policy in which everybody could get lithium”


 Atacama where Lithium is extracted  © Am Ang Zhang 2015

Lithium: The Gift That Keeps on Giving in Psychiatry

Nassir Ghaemi, MD, MPH
June 16, 2017

At the recent American Psychiatric Association annual meeting in San Diego, an update symposium was presented on the topic of "Lithium: Key Issues for Practice." In a session chaired by Dr David Osser, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, presenters reviewed various aspects of the utility of lithium in psychiatry.

Leonardo Tondo, MD, a prominent researcher on lithium and affective illness, who is on the faculty of McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School and the University of Cagliari, Italy, reviewed studies on lithium's effects for suicide prevention. Ecological studies in this field have found an association between higher amounts of lithium in the drinking water and lower suicide rates.


These "high" amounts of lithium are equivalent to about 1 mg/d of elemental lithium or somewhat more. Conversely, other studies did not find such an association, but tended to look at areas where lithium levels are not high (ie, about 0.5 mg/d of elemental lithium or less). Nonetheless, because these studies are observational, causal relationships cannot be assumed. It is relevant, though, that lithium has been causally associated with lower suicide rates in randomized clinical trials of affective illness, compared with placebo, at standard doses (around 600-1200 mg/d of lithium carbonate).

Many shy away from Lithium not knowing that not prescribing it may actually lead to death by suicide. As such all worries about long term side effects become meaningless. 

Will the new generation of psychiatrists come round to Lithium again? How many talented individuals could have been saved by lithium?

APA Nassir Ghaemi, MD MPH
  • In psychiatry, our most effective drugs are the old drugs: ECT (1930s), lithium (1950s), MAOIs and TCAs (1950s and 1960s) and clozapine (1970s)
    • We haven’t developed a drug that’s more effective than any other drug since the 1970’s
    • All we have developed is safer drugs (less side effects), but not more effective
  • Dose lithium only once a day, at night
  • For patients with bipolar illness, you don’t need a reason to give lithium. You need a reason not to give lithium  (Originally by Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin)



Cade, John Frederick Joseph (1912 - 1980)
Taking lithium himself with no ill effect, John Cade then used it to treat ten patients with chronic or recurrent mania, on whom he found it to have a pronounced calming effect. Cade's remarkably successful results were detailed in his paper, 'Lithium salts in the treatment of psychotic excitement', published in the Medical Journal of Australia (1949). He subsequently found that lithium was also of some value in assisting depressives. His discovery of the efficacy of a cheap, naturally occurring and widely available element in dealing with manic-depressive disorders provided an alternative to the existing therapies of shock treatment or prolonged hospitalization.

In 1985 the American National Institute of Mental Health estimated that Cade's discovery of the efficacy of lithium in the treatment of manic depression had saved the world at least $US 17.5 billion in medical costs.

And many lives too!

I have just received a query from a reader of this blog about Lithium, and I thought it worth me reiterating my views here.      It is no secret that I am a traditionalist who believes that lithium is the drug of choice for Bipolar disorders.
Could Lithium be the Aspirin of Psychiatry? Only time will tell!


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Singapore Health Care: NHS to learn from old Colony!!!





Singapore ©2013 Am Ang Zhang



The Cockroach Catcher recently visited Singapore and is most impressed with how a city state emerged from British Colonial rule to become a shining example to the rest of the world both in terms of Employment, Education, Rule of Law and most importantly Health Care.

Until now, most health care in England has been “free” at the point of delivery. This indeed may be where the trouble really is.

When I was growing up in Hong Kong, education was not free nor was it compulsory. Yet most of us valued it. Every single bit of book, pencil and paper were paid for by hard working parents. There was no abuse of any of those items. Primary education became compulsory (and free) from 1979, yes, late.

Well, one thing I have to admit about British Colonialist is that they generally leave a good government behind. How that is achieved is a mystery to many but in general a stable government with a single policy for 150 years or so may well be one of them. In recent years, the Civil Service in Hong Kong and Singapore had been very efficient and whatever corruption there may have been had been contained or controlled.

Old Singapore Today©2013 Am Ang Zhang
Citizens of England might be surprised to hear that for most of us, health care is not free.

No, not for those of us who pay national insurance and taxes and if we include VAT, that is just about everybody.

Singapore: NO! NOT FREE!

Singapore’s health delivery is not free at any point. This has the singular advantage of preventing the over-utilisation of any of its healthcare services. As England struggled to stem the flow of new EU citizens from coming to use (or abuse) our NHS, Singapore’s system simply see to it that it would not happen. Yet there is a safeguard in public health for what is known as a catastrophic situation which happened during the SARS outbreak.

Singaporeans are considerably healthier than Americans, yet pay, per person, about one-fifth of what Americans pay for their healthcare.


So how does Singapore achieve such impressive results?
The key to Singapore’s efficient health care system is the emphasis on the individual to assume responsibility towards their own health and, importantly, their own health expenditure.

The state recovers 20-100 percent of its public healthcare outlay through user fees. A patient in a government hospital who chooses the open ward is subsidized by the government at 80 percent. Better-off patients choose more comfortable wards with lower or no government subsidy, in a self-administered means test.
I've heard a lot of smart people warn that co-payments are penny-wise but pound-foolish, because people cut back on high-benefit preventive care. Unless someone is willing to dispute Singapore's budgetary and health data, it looks like we've got strong counter-evidence to this view: Either Singaporeans don't skimp on preventive care when you raise the price, or preventive care isn't all it's cracked up to be.
More details on how Singapore's system works:
  • There are mandatory health savings accounts: "Individuals pre-save for medical expenses through mandatory deductions from their paychecks and employer contributions... Only approved categories of medical treatment can be paid for by deducting one's Medisave account, for oneself, grandparents, parents, spouse or children: consultations with private practitioners for minor ailments must be paid from out-of-pocket cash..."
  • "The private healthcare system competes with the public healthcare, which helps contain prices in both directions. Private medical insurance is also available."
  • Private healthcare providers are required to publish price lists to encourage comparison shopping.
  • The government pays for "basic healthcare services... subject to tight expenditure control." Bottom line: The government pays 80% of "basic public healthcare services."
  • Government plays a big role with contagious disease, and adds some paternalism on top: "Preventing diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tobacco-related illnesses by ensuring good health conditions takes a high priority."
  • The government provides optional low-cost catastrophic health insurance, plus a safety net "subject to stringent means-testing."
                                                             The Undercover Economist

So in Singapore private clinics are responsible for 80% of primary care but public hospitals cover 80% of hospital care!

 

Singapore has some of the best public hospitals in the Far East if not the world so much so that even those with private insurance often chose to have their operations in a public hospital but staying in a more private room if their insurance covers it. Public hospitals of this level of excellence become the natural competitor for the private market and helps to keep overall cost down without the need of draconian legislation. Such good public hospitals also provide some of the best training grounds for future generations of top class doctors.

 

Singapore together with Iceland has one of the lowest Infant Mortality rates in the world, a third the figure of the USA.

 Singapore: Now ©2013 Am Ang Zhang

 

Read also:

 

The Singapore health system – achieving positive health outcomes with low expenditure                                               by   John Tucci

 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Suicide: The Answer, my friend may be Lithium!


Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows

That too many people have died?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind

                                                                       Bob Dylan.

 Atacama where Lithium is extracted  © Am Ang Zhang 2015

Lithium: The Gift That Keeps on Giving in Psychiatry

Nassir Ghaemi, MD, MPH
June 16, 2017
At the recent American Psychiatric Association annual meeting in San Diego, an update symposium was presented on the topic of "Lithium: Key Issues for Practice." In a session chaired by Dr David Osser, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, presenters reviewed various aspects of the utility of lithium in psychiatry.
Leonardo Tondo, MD, a prominent researcher on lithium and affective illness, who is on the faculty of McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School and the University of Cagliari, Italy, reviewed studies on lithium's effects for suicide prevention. Ecological studies in this field have found an association between higher amounts of lithium in the drinking water and lower suicide rates.

These "high" amounts of lithium are equivalent to about 1 mg/d of elemental lithium or somewhat more. Conversely, other studies did not find such an association, but tended to look at areas where lithium levels are not high (ie, about 0.5 mg/d of elemental lithium or less). Nonetheless, because these studies are observational, causal relationships cannot be assumed. It is relevant, though, that lithium has been causally associated with lower suicide rates in randomized clinical trials of affective illness, compared with placebo, at standard doses (around 600-1200 mg/d of lithium carbonate).
Many shy away from Lithium not knowing that not prescribing it may actually lead to death by suicide. As such all worries about long term side effects become meaningless. 
  • In psychiatry, our most effective drugs are the old drugs: ECT (1930s), lithium (1950s), MAOIs and TCAs (1950s and 1960s) and clozapine (1970s)
  • We haven’t developed a drug that’s more effective than any other drug since the 1970’s
  • All we have developed is safer drugs (less side effects), but not more effective
  • Dose lithium only once a day, at night
  • For patients with bipolar illness, you don’t need a reason to give lithium. You need a reason not to give lithium  (Originally by Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin)

One might ask why there has been such a shift from Lithium.


"Many psychiatric residents have no or limited experience prescribing lithium, largely a reflection of the enormous focus on the newer drugs in educational programs supported by the pharmaceutical industry."

Could it be the simplicity of the salt that is causing problems for the younger generation of psychiatrists brought up on various neuro-transmitters?
Could it be the fact that Lithium was discovered in Australia? Look at the time it took for Helicobacter pylori to be accepted.

Some felt it has to do with how little money is to be made from Lithium.

Some felt it has to do with how little money is to be made from Lithium.


Will the new generation of psychiatrists come round to Lithium again? How many talented individuals could have been saved by lithium?

 

Fremantle: Medical Heresy & Nobel

 

Tasmania & SIDS: The wasted years!

My questions are: Will the new generation of psychiatrists come round to Lithium again? How many talented individuals could have been saved by lithium?



©Am Ang Zhang 2013

Cade, John Frederick Joseph (1912 - 1980)
Taking lithium himself with no ill effect, John Cade then used it to treat ten patients with chronic or recurrent mania, on whom he found it to have a pronounced calming effect. Cade's remarkably successful results were detailed in his paper, 'Lithium salts in the treatment of psychotic excitement', published in the Medical Journal of Australia (1949). He subsequently found that lithium was also of some value in assisting depressives. His discovery of the efficacy of a cheap, naturally occurring and widely available element in dealing with manic-depressive disorders provided an alternative to the existing therapies of shock treatment or prolonged hospitalization.

In 1985 the American National Institute of Mental Health estimated that Cade's discovery of the efficacy of lithium in the treatment of manic depression had saved the world at least $US 17.5 billion in medical costs.

And many lives too!



The following is an extract from The Cockroach Catcher:
“Get him to the hospital. Whatever it is he is not ours, not this time. But wait. Has he overdosed on the Lithium?”

“No. my wife is very careful and she puts it out every morning, and the rest is in her bag.”

Phew, at least I warned them of the danger. It gave me perpetual nightmare to put so many of my Bipolars on Lithium but from my experience it was otherwise the best.

“Get him admitted and I shall talk to the doctor there.”

He was in fact delirious by the time they got him into hospital and he was admitted to the local Neurological hospital. He was unconscious for at least ten days but no, his lithium level was within therapeutic range.

He had one of the worst encephalitis     they had seen in recent times and they were surprised he survived.

Then I asked the Neurologist who was new, as my good friend had retired by then, if the lithium had in fact protected him. He said he was glad I asked as he was just reading some article on the neuroprotectiveness of lithium.

Well, you never know. One does get lucky sometimes. What lithium might do to Masud in the years to come would be another matter.

I found that people from the Indian subcontinent were very loyal once they realised they had a good doctor – loyalty taking the form of doing exactly what you told them, like keeping medicine safe; and also insisting that they saw only you, not one of your juniors even if they were from their own country. It must have been hard when I retired.

Some parents question the wisdom of using a toxic drug for a condition where suicide risk is high. My answer can only be that lithium seems inherently able to reduce that desire to kill oneself, more than the other mood stabilizers, as the latest Harvard research shows.
Lithium has its problems – toxic at a high level and useless at a low one, although the last point is debatable as younger people seem to do well at below the lower limit of therapeutic range.
Many doctors no longer have the experience of its use and may lose heart as the patient slowly builds up the level of lithium at the cellular level. The blood level is a safeguard against toxicity and anyone starting on lithium will have to wait at least three to four weeks for its effect to kick in. In fact the effect does not kick in, but just fades in if you get the drift.
Long term problems are mainly those of the thyroid and thyroid functions must be monitored closely more so if there is a family history of thyroid problems. Kidney dysfunction seldom occurs with the Child Psychiatrist’s age group but is a well known long term risk.
Also if there is any condition that causes electrolyte upset, such as diarrhea, vomiting and severe dehydration, the doctor must be alerted to the fact that the patient is on Lithium.
Could Lithium be the Aspirin of Psychiatry? Only time will tell!
Related Posts:


Chile: Salar de Atacama & Bipolar Disorder.




The Book: The Cockroach Catcher

                                                                                                                          

The Cockroach Catcher on Amazon Kindle UKAmazon Kindle US

                              

Hands only CPR.

Following an article in the FT

Published: September 17 2010 22:37

Hands-only CPR, at a rate of 100 per minute until the emergency crew armed with automated cardiac defibrillators arrive, was superior to the traditional method of CPR.


A Brief History of Time: CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)

In April, my good friend the cardiologist in California received an email from one of his friends on the subject of “New AHA rules for CPR finally released to the general public”.
It read:

Thanks to you, I'd had a two year head start on this subject that's only this week published in the popular press. When you first advised me on it, I'd forwarded that info to all my friends. Believe it or not, a GI friend of mine actually saved a life at a wedding last year. Some elderly gent at his table suddenly collapsed to the floor without a pulse. He remembered the article I'd forwarded him and began vigorous CPR without giving mouth to mouth. That gent survived to thank him. Indirectly, of course, he's thanking you.”

My good friend has been interested in the subject of CPR for many years and provided me with some interesting material on the history of CPR, which I share with you below.




1891: The first external cardiac massage in the Western world was reported to be done successfully by Friedrich Maass.
1960: Kowenhoven and Knickerbocker reported their method in JAMA that chest compression was accepted as a method of resuscitation for cardiac arrest.
1966: The first guideline for CPR was published.
1970: Teaching the lay public to do CPR was started.
1974: American Heart Association (AHA) formally promoted the practice involving the combination of rescue breathing and external cardiac massage for cardiac arrest in a ratio of 2:15.
2005: Ewy in Arizona showed that hands-only CPR, at a rate of 100 per minute until the emergency crew armed with automated cardiac defibrillators arrive, was superior to the traditional method of CPR.
My friend immediately drew the attention of his colleagues in Hong Kong to Ewy's work and suggested that the lay public should be taught this simplified method of CPR to encourage bystanders to give aid to victims of cardiac arrest. Many bystanders would otherwise be reluctant to help for fear of contracting AIDS through traditional mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to these strangers.
The AHA was hesitant to accept Ewy's idea in their new guidelines for CPR in 2005, but as a compromise, recommended a ratio of 2 breaths to 30 chest compressions instead.
2007: In March The Lancet reported a Japanese study on a series of over 4000 cases in Tokyo, comparing traditional CPR to hands-only CPR by bystanders. The results showed that the latter was more successful in the resuscitation of cardiac arrest with preservation of neurological function.
2008: In April, the AHA finally gave its approval on hands-only CPR from bystanders. The link has a video demo.

To date I could not find any hands-only CPR in NICE and the St John’s Ambulance site is still in the 2/30 era.
Luckily for the wedding guest, his friend did not wait for the AHA recommendation nor any British ones.

History in Traditional Chinese Medicine
403-221 BC: (Warring Kingdoms period) External cardiac massage was practised as a method of resuscitation for victims of suicide by hanging. Some credited this to Bian Que.
6 BC - 221 AD: (Eastern Han Dynasty) The first description of CPR for resuscitation of victims of hanging came from Zhang Zhongjing.
In his Essence of the Golden Chest, miscellaneous therapy #23, he described the method as follows: "Lower the victim gently, don't just cut the rope, and lie him on the blankets. One person should put his feet against the shoulders of the victim and pull on his hair, rendering it taut (to open the airway). One person should put his hands on the victim's chest and compress rhythmically (external cardiac massage). One person should flex and extend the victim's limbs (to promote venous return). One person should press on the victim's abdomen (to enhance intrathoracic pressure during external cardiac massage). ....This method is the best and usually successful."
Zhang Zhongjing's writings were handed down and read by Chinese physicians through the centuries.
1186-1249 AD: (Sung Dynasty) The above passage in Essence of the Golden Chest was cited by Sung Ci in his book on forensic medicine “Washing Away of Wrongs (Xi Yuan Ji Lu)”, which is recognized as the first book of forensic medicine in the world and has been translated into many languages both in Asia and Europe.
There is much we can learn from the past. One may even save a life.