Acute antidepressant effect of lithium is associated with fluctuation of calcium and magnesium in plasma

A double-blind study on the antidepressant effect of lithium and clomipramine


*Karolinska Institute Department of Psychiatry St. Goran's Hospital Box 12500 S-11281 Stockholm Sweden


In a double-blind study on 22 patients with major depressive disorder the effects of lithium and clomipramine on signs and symptoms and on calcium and magnesium in plasma were compared. Ratings of antidepressant and side effects were performed by 2 psychiatrists at the end of a placebo period of 5–7 days and after treatment for 2 and 4 weeks. Psychopathology was rated by 15 reported and 4 observed items from the Comprehensive Psycho pat ho logical Rating Scale (CPRS). Eleven items present in 72–100% of the patients were used to evaluate the effect of the two drugs. After 2 weeks of treatment the rated scores dropped for more than half of the CPRS items. After 4 weeks the scores for all but one item were reduced in both groups. The sums of scores were significantly reduced after 2 weeks in both groups and after 4 weeks global scores were reduced as well. The drugs had notable and similar antidepressant effects. Lithium treatment was associated with fluctuations in calcium and magnesium levels in plasma not seen during clomipramine treatment. Serum prolactin increased during clomipramine treatment but was unaffected by lithium treatment. No correlations were found between the sum of rating scores and blood levels of drugs, prolactin, calcium or magnesium.