Matt Hancock urged: stop withdrawal of lithium drug

We write to Secretary of State

We've partnered with the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the College of Mental Health pharmacy, the Royal College of GPs and patient groups to urge Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock MP to ensure Priadel, a brand of lithium taken by people with bipolar disorder, remains available to treat patients in the UK and to avert a huge increase in price the NHS pays for the drug.

Lithium is an essential medicine recommended by NICE to treat bipolar disorder and help prevent suicide. It's been estimated that one in a hundred people have bipolar disorder and one in five of these take lithium.

Essential Pharma own the rights to Priadel, and have announced it is withdrawing the brand in April 2021. It also owns the other main brand of lithium, Camcolit, which costs almost 12 times more than Priadel. 

Switching treatment can destabilize patients, risking either the medicine becoming less effective, or building to toxic levels causing severe side-effects including kidney damage. It therefore requires added reviews, extra tests and close monitoring of patients, increasing pressure on primary care and mental health services already over-stretched by the pandemic.

Priadel currently costs £4.02 for a pack of 400mg tablets. Camcolit costs  £48.18 per pack of 400mg tablets. In direct drug costs alone, it’s estimated that this will cost the NHS approximately £15 million annually.  

Dr Ian Maidment, RPS spokesperson and Reader in Clinical Pharmacy at Aston University said: “Withdrawing Priadel could put thousands of patients at unnecessary risk of harm. Being unable to get the same brand and dose will affect the physical and mental health of many. We want the Secretary of State to personally intervene to maintain supplies of Priadel so patients with bipolar disorder can still get this vital medicine.”

Ciara Ni Dhubhlaing, President of the College of Mental Health Pharmacy, said: “Pharmacists are already reporting stock shortages and we are deeply concerned about the withdrawal of this essential treatment for this vulnerable patient group. This will cost the NHS millions more each year at a time when finances and services are already stretched due COVID-19.”

Read the full letter to Matt Hancock.


Listen to Ian Maidment on Times Radio:


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