Clinical evaluation of switching from immediate-release to prolonged-release lithium in bipolar patients, poorly tolerant to lithium immediate-release treatment: A randomized clinical trial

Brain Behav. 2022 Mar;12(3):e2485. doi: 10.1002/brb3.2485. Epub 2022 Feb 9.


Aim: The effect of switching from lithium immediate release (Li-IR) to lithium prolonged release (Li-PR) on lithium-induced tremor after 1 and 12 weeks of treatment was evaluated in a randomized, multicenter, open trial, in bipolar patients from the participating sites with a tremor severity ≥2 (Udvalg for Kliniske Undersøgelser [UKU] rating scale) despite optimal lithium titration.

Methods: The primary endpoint was the evaluation of tremor by means of the UKU scale after 1 week of treatment. Secondary endpoints included manic Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) and depressive symptoms (Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale), a global assessment of the patient's status (Clinical Global Impression), polyuria/polydipsia (UKU item 3.8) and patient-reported outcomes.

Results: Owing to difficulties in including suitable patients the enrollment phase was closed when 73 patients were randomized. Notwithstanding the lower number of patients, in the modified intention-to-treat population (n = 70) the primary endpoint was statistically significant: tremor improved after 1 week in 62.9% in Li-PR group against 20.0% of patients in Li-IR group (p = .0006; two-tailed Fisher's exact test). The difference remained statistically significant after 4 (p = .0031) and 12 weeks (p = .0128). The same analysis performed in the PP population confirmed these results. Among the secondary endpoints, only the factor convenience of the treatment satisfaction questionnaire showed a statistically significant difference between groups. There were no apparent differences in the safety profile of the two formulations.

Conclusions: This study is the first comparative documentation of a potential benefit of the prolonged-release formulation in reducing the symptom tremor, a well-known adverse effect of lithium therapy. Indeed, the study results should be interpreted taking into account the sample size lower than planned.

Keywords: bipolar disorder; lithium compounds; tremor.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder* / diagnosis
  • Bipolar Disorder* / drug therapy
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Lithium* / adverse effects
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tremor


  • Lithium