Lithium use from 2000 to 2010 in Italy: A population-based study

A. Parabiaghi, A. Barbato, P. Risso, I. Fortino, A. Bortolotti, L. Merlino, B. D'Avanzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Lithium is a highly specific and evidence-supported drug for the acute and maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder. Methods: The purpose of this study was to calculate the prevalence and incidence of lithium use and to investigate the prescribing patterns of other mood-stabilizing agents in lithium users. We analyzed lithium utilization from 2000 to 2010 in a large area in Italy on the basis of dispensing data drawn from the regional administrative database. For each calendar year those who had at least one recorded dispensation of lithium were defined as lithium users. Those who received more than 4 dispensations per year were defined as lithium-treated. Results: Rates of lithium utilization did not change during the observation period, but the amount of drug prescribed increased as a result of longer treatment and higher doses. The prevalence of use showed an initial increase of 8% (2000-2002), followed by a 13% decrease (2002-2006) and a subsequent rise of 11% (2006-2010). The prevalence of treatment grew by 38% during the whole observation period. The proportion of former lithium users who received other drugs or discontinued any treatment increased from 41% in 2002 to 52% in 2006, and then fell to 40% in 2010. Conclusion: The initial decline (2002-2006) and the subsequent rise (2006-2010) of lithium use can be explained by a fall and rise of new prescriptions. This finding together with a similar but opposite change in prescriptions of the other mood-stabilizing agents suggests a temporary change in prescribing attitudes which was subsequently reconsidered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-94
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2015


  • bipolar disorder
  • drug utilization
  • lithium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Medicine(all)


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