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Thursday, August 12, 2021

Review: Lithium

 Lithium is the story of the medical uses of lithium salts, its discovery of the application of it to bipolar disorder by John Cade in Australia, and its long journey towards acceptance. What comes through is that even after the discovery, the use of lithium and the scientific approach to it faced multiple obstacles, chiefest of which was that since it was a common substance pharmaceutical companies had no incentive to push it or do studies on it.

The lack of scientific studies on it was more surprising, but maybe it shouldn't have been. Unlike researchers, clinical practitioners don't particularly care to do randomized control trials if something can be shown to work. In fact, many considered it unethical to give patients a placebo if someone truly needed it a drug.

The book's quite long winded, and doesn't quite cover many of the scientific details behind why and how lithium actually works, which I found quite disappointing. It does make a big deal of how the clinical dose is also very close to the toxic dose, but again, no details there as to how sensitive the dosage is, or how the hospitals/clinicians monitored its patients.

I enjoyed the book but wouldn't consider it a good use of time because of the above mentioned factors.

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