Lithium drug is possibly consumed by many people for treating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Even a small Italian study suggested this drug to have that potential for treating ALS. According to a new study, lithium is not effective in treating people with ALS also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

ALS is a progressive disorder of the nervous system. Patients with this aliment may report weakness in muscles including those regulating swallowing and breathing. With progression in weakness, most people are unable to survive after three to five years. The latest study triggered in Italy was halted early due to an extremely high dropout rate from death, serious side effects and lack of benefit.

Adriano Chio, MD, of the University of Turin in Italy, a member of the American Academy of Neurology and study author, shared, “This discontinuation rate is two times higher than that in other recent studies for ALS drugs. This high dropout level, along with the relatively high frequency of side effects, raises serious doubts about the safety of this drug and also shows it to be ineffective for people with ALS.”

The study which encompassed 171 ALS patients had its participants divided in two groups. The first group which had a total of 87 patients was provided with a dosage of lithium. This lithium was subtherapeutic, or lower than approved uses of lithium. Both groups did not display any significant differences in the time of the patients’ survival.

Also no variations were apparently noted in the duration of severe disabled or the ability to perform activities like walking and swallowing. From 171 people, around 117 or 68 percent had dropped out of the study due to death, side effects or because they thought the drug was ineffective. Two additional studies were being initiated to have some participants taking placebo which may help ascertain the effects of lithium in ALS.

The study is published in the August 11, 2010, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.