KU School Of Medicine To Study Lithium In Children

By: jared.cerullo@kake.com Email
By: jared.cerullo@kake.com Email

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pediatric bipolar disorder has long been treated with the drug lithium even though lithium has never been tested in children. The KU School of Medicine in Wichita is beginning a national study this week on the drug's effect in children who have the disorder.

The drug most widely prescribed to children to treat bipolar disorder has never been tested in children. Within the next year, we should begin knowing exactly how the drug reacts.

"They don't do well in school, they're distractable, they're hyperactive, and they don't get along with their peers, so they suffer socially, too," said Dr. Russell Scheffer, who will be conducting the study.

The KU School of Medicine is getting $800,000 for the 18 month study, hopefully to break ground in figuring out exactly how lithium affects children with bipolar disorder. The disorder causes mania, even rage, in approximately one out of every 100 children nationally.

"Every day of that development that a child is ill, they lose that day of development," Scheffer said, "so it's important to get diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible."

Lithium is an anti-depressant. The study will include 300 children. Dr. Scheffer is one of only four child psychiatrists in Wichita.

"It's also thought that, and part of the study will help determine this, but it may also help decrease suicidal thoughts and behaviors a little more than other treatments," Scheffer said.

Lithium is one of four medications prescribed to children to help treat bipolar disorder. At Dandurand Drug in Wichita, pharmacists delve out thousands of the pink pills every year, but mostly to adults. The KU School of Medicine received the grant for the study from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to help create guidelines on usage, determine possible side effects and establish better dosing instructions.

"Frankly, most parts of medicine, if you think about it, the longer a patient is ill, the harder it is to treat, so there's a sort of a wear down effect," Scheffer explained.

The study will include children aged 7-17. Dr. Scheffer says children are not just little adults. their bodies and minds react differently to drugs.

If you have a child with bipolar disorder and would like to apply for the study, you can call 316-293-2646.

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