New lithium guide for patients

  • Niall Hunter, Editor

Saint John of God Hospital in Dublin has launched lithium information packs for patients.

Lithium is a commonly prescribed medication, effective in the acute treatment of mania, in the prevention of bipolar disorder, and is used in addition to antidepressants in treatment-resistant depression.

Patients taking lithium require monitoring of lithium levels to avoid sub-therapeutic and toxic effects, and the drug can have recognised adverse effects on the kidneys and thyroid.

Analysis of reports in the UK and Ireland suggests there have been deaths, severe harm and a substantial number of errors reported relating to Lithium therapy, according to St John of God Hospital.

Audrey Purcell, Acting Head of Pharmacy at Saint John of God Hospital , created the treatment pack with her team.

Concurrently, the Irish Medication Safety Network (IMSN), in collaboration with the Saint John of God Hospital pharmacy, has developed and launched best practice guidelines for prescribing and monitoring of Lithium therapy available on the IMSN website.

Speaking on the need for the treatment packs, Audrey Purcell said: "As lithium therapy is an error‑prone process, careful prescribing, dispensing and monitoring is essential and should be supported by the provision of on-going verbal and written information to patients. This highlights the need for the provision of standardised information to both patients and healthcare professionals.

She said by launching the packs nationally, the Saint John of God service aims to improve safety for those on lithium therapy in Ireland.

"We are recommending that these packs be provided to all patients on Lithium therapy and their use promoted by healthcare professionals in both primary and secondary care."

The national lithium information pack contains a patient information booklet, alert card and record book. The information booklet informs patients of key aspects of their treatment including side‑effects and toxicity, while the record book is used to record lithium blood levels and monitor relevant clinical tests.

The lithium information packs are now available to order by community pharmacies, hospital pharmacies, GPs and healthcare professionals nationwide directly from KPW Printers at (090) 964229.

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