Background: Lithium as a mood stabilizer has been used as the standard pharmacological treatment for bipolar disorder (BD) for more than 60 years. Recent studies have also shown that it has potential for treatment of many other neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, through its neurotrophic, neuroprotective, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. Therefore, exploring its pharmacokinetic features and designing more excellent lithium preparations are becoming important research topics.
Methods: We reviewed many studies on the pharmacokinetics, drug design and toxicity of lithium based on recent relevant research progress from PubMed, Web of Science, Elsevier and Springer databases. Keywords used for searching references were lithium, pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, drug design and toxicity.
Results: Lithium is rapidly and completely absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract after oral administration. Its level is initially highest in serum and then is evidently redistributed to various tissue compartments. It is not metabolized and over 95% of lithium is excreted unchanged through the kidney, but different lithium preparations may have different pharmacokinetics features. Lithium has a narrow therapeutic window limited by various adverse effects, but some novel drugs of lithium may overcome these problems.
Conclusion: Various formulations of lithium have potential for treating neurodegenerative brain diseases but further study on their pharmacokinetics will be required in order to determine the optimal formulation, dosage and route of administration.