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Tell FDA Lithium Helps Prevent Suicide in Bipolar Disorder

December 13th, 2006

In response to a comprehensive analysis of data on the link between lithium and a protective effect against suicide in people with bipolar disorder, NAMI calls on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to act on a Citizen’s Petition that seeks an indication for reduced risk of completed suicides among individuals with bipolar disorder for all lithium products.  

Suicide results in the deaths of at least 32,000 Americans annually, making it the 11th leading cause of death.  Among individuals with bipolar disorder, however, the risk of suicide is at least 20 times higher than in the general population.  Further, 10 to 15 percent of deaths among individuals with bipolar disorder are suicides.

The Citizen’s Petition submitted by Ross Baldessarini, MD and Frederick Goodwin, MD on September 28, 2005 makes clear there is ample evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of lithium in reducing the risks of suicide.  Specifically, the Citizen’s Petition provides an analysis of 45 peer-reviewed studies of lithium which found that lithium can reduce the risk of suicidal behaviors in individuals with bipolar disorder by as much as 80%. 

The link between lithium, which has been available to treat mental illness for more than 50 years, and reduced risk of suicide, has been acknowledged previously by federal public health authorities.

  • In 2001, the Surgeon General’s National Strategy for Suicide Prevention noted that “the impact of some risk factors can clearly be reduced by certain interventions such as providing lithium for manic-depressive illness.”
  • In 2002, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report Reducing Suicide: A National Imperative found that: “Suicidality can be treated.  There is evidence that lithium treatment of bipolar disorder significantly reduces suicide rates.  In fact, lithium may have specific anti-suicidal effects for people with this disorder since these effects may be separate from its antidepressant and antimanic effects.”

Because it is critical that individuals with bipolar disorder and their physicians have unrestricted access to all available treatments, NAMI urges the FDA to act promptly on the Citizen’s Petition, and to base its decision on the strong body of evidence demonstrating the role of lithium in reducing suicide risk.

To add your voice to this effort, submit comments to the FDA in support of the Citizen’s Petition to the address below, making reference to Docket #2005P-0402:

            Dockets Management Branch, HFA-30
            Food and Drug Administration
            Department of Health and Human Services
            5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061
            Rockville, Maryland 20852


For more information, see below for NAMI's letter to the FDA, and the Citizen’s Petition on Lithium and Suicide Reduction in Individuals with Bipolar Disorder.

Related Files

Citizenís Petition on Lithium and Suicide Reduction in Individuals with Bipolar Disorder (PDF File)
NAMI's Letter to the FDA (PDF File)